From Socialist Voice, January 2006

Information, or government propaganda?

With the defeat and rejection of the EU Constitution by the French and Dutch peoples, the elites of the European Union went into a complete tizzy, and some of them sulked in the corner at the audacity of the people in turning down their great plan for Europe.
    The heads of government then called for a “period of reflection” on where they should be going, and for the people’s opinions to be sought.
    How has our government approached this “period of reflection”? Well, first of all the Department of Foreign Affairs gave a significant grant to the Irish Jesuits for holding a large-scale conference in the Croke Park Conference Centre (one of the dearest venues in the country) on the future of Europe. Not one speaker from any of a wide range of critical groups was given a place on the platform, despite numerous requests to the organisers. They were all going to discuss why the French and Dutch voted No; but those who have similar criticism to make here in Ireland were excluded. A strange type of dialogue!
    Recently the Department of Foreign Affairs made public the names and the amounts of funding paid to organisations for promoting “dialogue” on the European Union and where it is or should be going.
• The Irish Council of the European Movement is to receive €252,000 for 2006 to “enhance awareness in Ireland of what the EU does and how it does it.” This group calls itself independent; but Bertie Ahern is president, and Ruairí Quinn is chairperson.
• The “Communicating Europe Initiative,” which falls under the Department of Foreign Affairs itself, will receive €205,000 to promote “greater debate.”
• €5,000 will go to the European Institute.
• And the poor old United Nations Association will receive €28,000—a good indicator of where current thinking is.
    No organisation with a critical view was given a look-in.
    The EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy will be in Dublin in late February to address the Forum on the Future of Europe. The Green Party’s proposal to the forum that Susan George—a leading public figure in the No campaign in France, chairperson of the Planning Board of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, and the author of a dozen books—who will be in Dublin at the same time, would share the platform with McCreevy. This generous offer was turned down.
    Once again it appears to be a dialogue of the deaf. Clearly, some opinions are more important than others.

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