With just five weeks to go to the referendum on Lisbon 2, the Yes side grows ever more desperate and its advocates more bizarre.
Last week, Cyclists for Yes was launched with much fanfare. This hardy bunch of souls will cycle around various parts of Ireland in an attempt to save our souls and rescue the country from imminent famine and pestilence. As, according to the doom merchants of the Yes side, this is our fate should the electorate in the Twenty-Six Counties have the audacity to vote No once again to the Lisbon Treaty.
The cyclists are but the latest addition to the Dublin government’s advance guard of EU warriors in a myriad of supposedly ‘non-political’ and ‘civil society’ organisations. These organisations include We Belong, headed by former Fianna Fail press director and confidante of Bertie Ahern Olivia Buckley. This group seems to think that people will be swayed to vote Yes because so-called celebrities and sports stars trot out meaningless points that have little relevance to the actual substance of the Lisbon Treaty. We Belong’s website carries a section entitled straight-talkers: bull-shit artists would be a more apt if impolite description of the inanities trotted out. Here’s one from musician Frankie Gavin:
“It is important we are all singing from the same hymn sheet, as a nation, and as part of the greater European Union. The Union has been great for Ireland and ironically made Irish citizens more aware of their culture and has made us accept our own language more openly in a proud way. National identity means more to us within the realm of the bigger picture.”
What exactly issues of culture and identity have to do with the Lisbon Treaty is not elaborated upon. Perhaps Gavin would like to debate the fact that smaller states will lose voting power under Lisbon, which will weight votes in favour of bigger states such as Germany, France and Britain.
Or how about this one from delicatessen proprietor Mark O’Connell:
“Anyone who ever read ‘WHO MOVED MY CHEESE’ knows that in life anyone who stands still and buries their head in the sand, while everything is changing around them, will find it very hard to survive. We have to be out there beavering away or we will be left behind- we’ve got to ensure we take the future in our own hands. Better to be playing than sitting on the bench.”
Not having read Who Moved My Cheese, one feels less than qualified to respond to O’Connell’s bizarre statement. The lame sporting analogies aside, he says nothing about the actual content of the Treaty. The EU cannot consign the Twenty-Six Counties or any other state to the ‘margins’ of Europe for rejecting the Treaty. This is scare mongering of the most facile kind.
Another prominent pro-Lisbon group is Generation Yes, which is jointly headed by Brigid Laffan and Pat Cox. Laffan is the former Jean Monet professor of European affairs at UCD and was recently appointed by Twenty-Six County minister for foreign affairs Micheal Martin to serve on the Dublin government’s Asia Strategy High Level Group. Pat Cox, meanwhile, is a former president of the EU parliament and a founding member of the now defunct Progressive Democrats. The two are hardly representative of, as their website claims, a “movement of young people from all over Ireland who are committed to promoting the benefits of EU membership”.
So, while the supposedly non-political ‘civil society groups’ are attempting to win over voters on issues of no consequence to Lisbon, the establishment parties and quack economists are predicting disaster should the Treaty be rejected once again.
It is not so long ago that the same merchants of doom were trying to convince us that the economic ‘boom’ would, as former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern put it, just get ‘boomer’. As the economic storm clouds gathered, we were assured that we were in for a ‘soft landing’. Carnage ensued, however, and working class communities are still coming to terms with the wreckage. Now, the message is that Lisbon is required to save the economy.
The idea that an even stronger dose of neo-liberalism, as advocated in Lisbon, can be the antidote to the current economic crisis seems incredulous to everyone but those with a vested interest in ensuring the ‘free market’ and the principle of competition are paramount.
One of those companies with such an interest is Ryanair, who last week announced they would be spending O500,000 [#440,000] on their Yes campaign. The fact that big business is willing to invest in a campaign that would give them even greater freedom to drive down the pay and conditions of workers should not be all that surprising. After all, Lisbon proposes a system whereby competition will not be distorted.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s expletive ridden rant against No campaigners describing them as ‘head-bangers’ and ‘economic illiterates’ is merely his stock in trade tactic to garner publicity. Juvenile rants will not convince workers and those who have already voted no to the Treaty that Lisbon is in their interests.
Workers are well aware of the significance of the European Court of Justice [ECJ] ruling in the Laval case which found that a Swedish trade union, by placing a picket on the company which was refusing to abide by Swedish labour laws and was paying its Latvian workers at rates equivalent to rates in Latvia, was restricting the company’s freedom to provide services.
In the Viking Ferry case, the ECJ ruled that the Finnish Seafarers’ Union could strike against a Finnish ferry company using Estonian sailors paid at Estonian wage rates on its ferries, but not if that were to deter the company from establishing a branch of its business in Estonia.
The Lisbon Treaty renders workers’ rights subordinate to business interests and hastens a race to the bottom in wages and conditions - music to the ears of Michael O’Leary, who is renowned for his anti-trade union and anti-worker practices.
It is not all that surprising that Ryanair would support the Lisbon Treaty; or the computer company Intel, who have much to gain from Article 28 of the Treaty which states that “member states shall undertake to improve their military capabilities”.
The increased military capacity of member states will be supervised by the European Defence Agency, while Article 28.3c provides for the creation of a special military budget or ‘start-up fund’ comprising contributions from each member state. The increased military spending as advocated by Lisbon would provide a boon for companies such as Intel, who provide key components of military hardware.
What is rather more surprising is that the Referendum Commission in the Twenty-Six Counties has reported that there are absolutely no spending limits on private companies who are campaigning during the Lisbon referendum. Private interests can therefore spend unlimited amounts of money in seeking to influence the democratic decisions of the Irish people. This is democracy EU style.
The Yes campaign is being entirely disingenuous in claiming that these various groups are ‘non-political’. All of them have a political agenda and all of them seek to overturn the democratic will of the majority, who rejected the exact same Treaty in June last year. Lies and distortions from the Yes camp cannot hide the fact that Lisbon is fundamentally undemocratic, puts business interests ahead of workers’ rights, puts the ‘free market’ and competition at the heart of the Europe and seeks to further militarise the EU.
Against this backdrop, the news that the Unite trade union is calling on its 60,000 members to vote No is a very welcome and encouraging development.
eirigi will formally launch its campaign on Saturday [September 5] and will be working alongside the No to Lisbon campaign to uphold the democratic wishes of the majority of people in the Twenty-Six Counties who have already voted No to Lisbon.