Sarkosy proved ‘No’ voters were right
Sarkosy proved ‘No’ voters were right

By Des Wilson

When Mr Sarkozy the French President said Irish people must vote again on the Lisbon Treaty, he underlined how right Irish people were to vote against it.

The European Union made an agreement that unless all member states agreed to the Treaty it would not be put into operation. That agreement was broken. Mr Sarkozy’s statement meant that if you do not vote the right way you will be asked to vote again - and again - until you vote right.

What is a right vote and what is not will be decided of course not by the elected representatives of your people but by those set up as a central authority in the Union, whether elected or not.

Irish people who voted No to the Lisbon Treaty were quite right. There is a serious possibility that the Union will be guided along a way in which developing democracy will give way to growing authoritarianism. Irish people are perfectly right in calling halt to such a course, or calling halt while we investigate whether we are going that way or not.

Patricia McKenna pointed out years ago that however good the European Union may be, it is always in danger of being manipulated towards forms of control which we struggled against in the past and should not agree to now.

Many years ago while Irish people were struggling to create a democratic state, other European countries - Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany - were creating dictatorships. Switzerland was standing profitably on the sidelines, Britain was trying to keep alive a monarchy whose stability rested on imperialism. It was a difficult world in which Ireland was setting out to create a democracy.

Many Irish people today are unwilling to lose a battle they won years ago, to wrest decision-making from an undemocratic few and make it possible for the people at large to have it.

Desire for a strong central bureaucracy which will create stability without modern democracy is never far from the surface of Continental European thinking, even now. Irish people could be - perhaps need to be - to the forefront of protecting what democratic rights they have.

The Lisbon Treaty Irish people were expected to sign was so vague that much of it could be interpreted in two directly different senses. This meant it would be interpreted in different ways according to the mood prevailing in Europe at any given time.

So we could go back to the days when Constitutions were written to look good but were interpreted in the way the strongest parties wanted. The constitutions of Soviet Russia and Franco’s Spain were fine constitutions on paper.

Irish people have a job to do, to keep the principle alive that firm basic laws must be clearly stated and firmly enforceable - not laws that can be interpreted by whomever is strong enough to interpret them in their own way.

Irish people need to take a firm and dignified stand on such matters. Caps in hand were never appropriate for us and are not appropriate now. Being apologetic for doing what is right is demeaning and damaging to everybody.

What Irish people who voted for or against the Lisbon Treaty need to do is not to vote again, but rather insist that every other European state holds a referendum as well.

That is a proper and dignified demand and would help instruct Mr Sarkozy in the realities of democratic life.

Irish people spent a long time getting partial freedom; most of the time Continental European states did little to help.

Even after some decades of EU help, we are not debtors to them.

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