Saturday, June 14, 2008

Go, Irish!

I’m not referring to any teams associated with the South Bend institution another State over from here.

Rather, I’m tipping my cap to the real Irish, who’ve just told the rest of Europe, (or at least their respective Parliaments), where to head in.

I’m referring to the Lisbon Treaty, hurtling along to ratification by 26 members of the 27-nation EU, until 1.5 million Irish voters said, "No."

I won’t pretend to know a great deal about either the Lisbon Treaty, being pushed on all member nations by the EU, nor on what its actual impact on Ireland would have been. Some said it would force Ireland to bring its abortion laws and other national values into line with the rest of liberal Europe. Others said that wasn't true, just a misstatement of the facts. Some Irish were concerned that their constitution would have to change.

But, whatever it would have done if adopted,the really interesting thing about the Lisbon Treaty is that Europe's voters, with the exception of tiny Ireland, (4 million people), aren’t being allowed to vote on it for themselves. Rather,

All other EU members are ratifying it only through their national governments, but Ireland is constitutionally obliged to subject all EU treaties to a popular vote. The unexpectedly strong "no" result announced Friday should act as a veto. (“Europe's would-be voters view Irish 'no' to EU treaty with far less surprise than leaders”).

This No vote caused EU leaders to freak out. “Refusing to take Ireland's no for an answer, leading politicians in Berlin and Paris prepared for a crucial EU summit in Brussels this week by trying to ringfence the Irish, while demanding that the reform treaty be ratified by the rest of the EU.” (“EU powers try to isolate Ireland after treaty defeat”).

The European press consistently explains the Lisbon Treaty as having been “drawn up to replace the draft European constitution after it was thrown out by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.”

Except, never having been ratified, the draft European constitution never was adopted, and so doesn’t need replacing. What actually is going on is that the parties who wanted it, and then didn't get it, came up with the Lisbon Treaty as a way to get it anyway, in spite of what the Europeans wanted.

Which isn't really very democratic.

Ireland's leaders were calling for a "Yes" vote, and were right on the same page with the rest of the EU leaders about getting the treaty passed. But the Irish voters' rejection of the treaty struck a chord with the rest of the European folks in the street.

Citizens across the bloc complain they have no direct power to influence EU treaties, which are produced in legal language too complex to understand. They say it's not enough that their elected governments help to negotiate such treaties.

Would-be voters in France and the Netherlands appear particularly annoyed on that score. Majorities there thought they had registered powerful statements against EU accountability by rejecting the EU's proposed constitution in 2005.

Instead, most of the constitution's rules for reshaping EU institutions and decision-making procedures reappeared in new packaging two years later when all 27 governments signed the Lisbon Treaty in the Portuguese capital.

"First they asked our opinion (on the constitution), and we said 'no.' So the second time they didn't ask our opinion. They said it wasn't the same; just some little laws. But it is the same," said Han de Vries, a parking meter attendant in Amsterdam.

"Now the Irish have said "no." So in Brussels they will now look again for a way and pass it anyhow," de Vries said.
("Europe's would-be voters view Irish 'no' to EU treaty with far less surprise than leaders").

In Ireland, the No voters just couldn’t see approving something they didn't completely understand, with consequences they couldn’t really predict.

And they don't like being bullied.

Primary school teacher Deirdre Nic Eanruig described the Treaty as an obscure document.

"Europe already has too much power in Ireland and I think we are giving away all our power," she said.

"This restricts our power, we won't have a Commissioner anymore, and we would also be stopped from having a referendum anymore. The European courts will also decide much more of our laws, which is very dangerous.

"I think we were being bullied by a lot of the politicians and the governments. They may be Europe's puppets but we're not."

John McDonald, 51, said a No vote was the best option.

"I do not like having my arm twisted, I do not like being threatened, and I do not like the way the EU is run," he said.

"The Government are puppets of Brussels, implementing policies made by Brussels.
"I'm also against the EU commissioners who are not elected but have all the power."

Anne Kelly cast her No vote to protect Ireland's rights.

"From talking to people around the village, everyone said they were voting No."
(“EU referendum: Irish voters stand up to Brussels”).


Anonymous said...

Small point: the University of Notre Dame was founded by and is still run by the Brothers of the Holy Cross, not the Society of Jesus...

Anonymous said...

Proud to be Half Irish!

T.R. Clancy said...


Thanks for pointing out that ND is not a school in the Jesuit tradition. I've made the correction.