Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

This is the only way to ensure we have a say in our future

A victory for the 'No' Side in today's referendum will establish a bond between the Irish people and the men and women -- the ordinary voters -- in the 26 other countries that make up the European Union. It will be a bond grounded in our respect for democracy, which we should believe they have a right to share, a right that has been denied them.

Our view is, or should be, that the 500 million voters in the European Union deserve to have a real say in the way they are governed, better than the one offered in the Lisbon Treaty.

We should demonstrate this by rejecting -- on our own and their behalf -- the extraordinary web of deceit those in power have woven around this treaty. Those who originally signed it had not read it. Those who have tried to sell it to the Irish people have represented it quite falsely and have pilloried as dishonest the case put for rejection.

We should emphatically reject the cut in our power. This will result from the removal of a representative voice on the European Commission for five years out of every 15 years, coupled with the fact that our right to decide who that Irish commissioner is -- when we have one -- has been removed. We can now only 'suggest' who it should be. The new commission president will decide it.

It is in fact much worse than that. Historically, we always chose our commissioner. They have been men of calibre and independence of thought, from Paddy Hillery to Peter Sutherland to Charlie McCreevy. After the Lisbon Treaty, the new commission president will not only make the final choice but will also make the final decision on their responsibilities, giving them their jobs.

If we say 'No' we frustrate this approach. Instead, we keep in place unanimity in deciding how many commissioners there will be. And all 29 countries want a commissioner. We surrender our agreement to that if we Vote 'Yes' -- and in doing so we surrender the agreement of the other states whether they like it or not.

We should not hand over these measures of power, nor should we surrender the power to make law. That right in any democracy has always belonged to the people. On a vast range of issues it now moves to Brussels. Together with it goes the European people's say in choosing a European president.

We should demonstrate by a 'No' vote that our citizenship of Ireland -- and the citizenships of every other country in the European Union -- should not be fundamentally altered by the amendment, which creates a new, but undemocratic citizenship of Europe.

We are faced with the creation of a federal state. We are being invited and cajoled into becoming members without the meaning being fully explained. A 'Yes' vote will force us into dual citizenship.

This far-reaching change has been played down in the presentation of the case for a 'Yes' vote. Not only has the Referendum Commission failed on this; all the 'Yes' campaign political parties have as well.

A victory for the 'No' vote would produce a pause and lead to a period of consultation. After the rejection of Nice by the Dutch and French there was a pause for reflection. A similar consequence of a 'No' vote now would be more dramatic, more far-reaching.

Ireland is uniquely placed to bring out the true facts that have been suppressed. By voting 'No' we will emphasise the huge issue involved in the constitutional change.

The truth lies ahead of us. It will be not be nice if we vote 'Yes'. But it will be open to being put right if we vote 'No'.