From Socialist Voice, October 2009

History will deal harshly with the Yes campaign

History will deal harshly with those who foisted the Lisbon Treaty on a majority of Irish voters in the rerun referendum on the 2nd of October.
     The campaign was not on the content of the treaty but on promises of jobs and economic recovery and a fear of political isolation and economic and social ruin for the country.
     And so the same political forces that destroyed the Irish economy through the housing bubble, the bank bail-outs and the criminally irresponsible NAMA scheme managed to persuade a majority of voters that Lisbon’s model of deregulated, privatised, let-it-rip economics can lead us out of the mess; or that Lisbon’s proposal to give the big EU states, such as Germany and France, 50 to 100 per cent more voting power in the European Union while halving Ireland’s, from 2 per cent to 0.9 per cent, will help us, while Brussels, Frankfurt and the big EU states insist on savage cut-backs being imposed on the Irish economy, with a threat of sanctions up to and including limitless fines for our present public-sector budget deficit.
     This year there will be a decline of nearly a tenth in Ireland’s economic output. We will have a budget deficit equivalent to 12 per cent of GDP, unemployment of some 14 per cent of the labour force, and net emigration again.
     The referendum result has no moral or political legitimacy, because of the undemocratic and fraudulent manner in which the referendum was conducted. In many ways the 2009 referendum result is a less valid expression of the popular will on the Lisbon Treaty than the 2008 one.
     The Yes side outspent the No side by a ratio of about ten to one, with the help of limitless finance provided by the European Commission, the EU Parliament political parties, the Government, and private business.
     The referendum campaign itself was marked by massive unlawfulness and breaches of referendum law.
  • Under the Broadcasting Act (2001) the broadcast media are obliged to be fair to all interests involved in issues of public controversy and debate. The blatant partisanship of RTE and the various “independent” media made a mockery of this obligation. In addition, local newspapers carried pro-Lisbon advertisements that clearly breached advertising standards.
  • Two private companies, Intel and Ryanair, spent massive amounts of money to advocate a Yes vote, in possible breach of company and tax law but certainly in breach of basic democratic principles.
  • Although it is illegal to receive donations from sources outside the country in waging a referendum campaign, political parties on the Yes side had their campaign posters and advertising partly financed by their political allies in the EU Parliament.
  • Under EU law, campaigns in which money is provided by the EU Parliament to transnational political parties are required to avoid partisan campaigning and advocacy and to be confined to providing information material.
  • Also illegal under EU law, the EU Commission spent massive amounts in setting up and running a web site carrying propaganda for the Yes side and campaigning for a Yes vote. The EU Commission has no function in relation to the ratification of new treaties, as this is exclusively a matter for member-states under their own constitutional procedures.
  • The president of the EU Commission, Manuel Barroso, and other members of the Commission and their staffs, also made illegal interventions on behalf of the Yes side.
  • The McKenna judgement by the Supreme Court in 1995 held that it is unconstitutional for the Government to use public funds to obtain a particular result in a referendum; yet the Government blatantly used public funds to circulate a postcard on the “assurances” of the European Council, a brochure giving a slanted summary of the treaty, and other material in clear breach of this judgement.
  • Mr Justice Frank Clarke and the Referendum Commission acted as an arm of Yes side propaganda instead of fulfilling their statutory role of explaining to voters how the proposed constitutional amendment and its text would affect the Constitution of Ireland. Probably a majority of Yes voters still do not know that Ireland is now the only EU member-state to have in its constitution a formal and permanent “commitment to the European Union”—a remarkable constitutional provision for a supposedly sovereign state to have. Yet the Referendum Commission’s brochure, sent to every home in the country, failed even to mention this provision, let alone explain why it had been added to the Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill (2009) yet hadn’t been in the 2008 bill.

     The judge himself was carefully packaged as a neutral authority on the treaty, while in fact his record shows him to be more of a partisan legal hack, giving several erroneous explanations of the provisions of the treaty in radio and newspaper interventions that went quite beyond his powers under the Referendum Act.
     Lisbon 2 marks the swan song of the political, economic and social compromises that were made possible by the “never had it so good” era of the so-called Celtic Tiger. These compromises are now coming apart as the Government and employers heap more and more burdens on working people, their families, and their communities.
     The rhetoric of large sections of the trade union leadership and their declarations that they will resist these policies ring hollow, given the craven failure of the same trade union leaders to make even the mildest protest against the illegalities in the referendum campaign.
     This failure must convince the Government and IBEC that threats of militancy from these union leaders are so much hot air, designed more to control and weaken real militancy than to give it focus and direction.
     The Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916 asserted “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies.” Socialists and republicans who base their political values on the Proclamation believe that an independent, sovereign, democratic Irish state is clearly not compatible with the European Union, which now makes 78 per cent of the laws for this country and the other member-states and decides much of the 26-County state’s economic and foreign policy.
     The central aim of the European Union is to erode the national democracy and independence of its member-states by gradually turning them into provinces of a supranational state under the political hegemony of Europe’s former imperial powers, in particular Germany and France, with Britain trying to get a look-in.
     The European Union erodes fundamentally the democratic power of the twenty-seven member-states and imposes on them a system of supranational law that makes all-out competition and the so-called free-market economy constitutionally mandatory on their governments, parliaments, and peoples. It therefore provides an ideal arena for the profit-maximising activities of transnational companies.
     If the Lisbon Treaty comes into force for all twenty-seven states, making the European Union constitutionally into a federation and turning 500 million people into EU citizens without consulting them, that is bound to make the question of national independence and democracy the core issue of European politics for decades to come.
     Progressives may have lost a stage in that struggle, but the struggle continues!

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