Bruce Arnold

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

Government has abandoned democracy to get a 'Yes' vote

Micheal Martin and Brian Cowen returned from the EU meeting on Friday, June 19 with a terrible mess of potage. They will try to sell this mess to the Irish people between now and October and it will inevitably involve further misrepresentation of the facts.

The EU meeting they attended was designed to involve Europe in an entirely domestic Irish issue: that of Ireland deciding on its future in Europe. The EU should not be so involved; it is not its decision, it is ours. Yet Europe, at the top of its totalitarian structure, is up to its neck in such involvement, already committing huge sums of money to pervert democracy in the one country among 27 that can hold back this surge, this tidal wave of pernicious autocracy.

Labour and Fine Gael, are going along with this. They accept the selective identification of weak links in those who oppose Lisbon, believing they and the Government can shave off sufficient marginal votes to change the result without addressing the fundamentals.

The duty of those two opposition parties, with the others, is not to side with the Government -- certainly if its objectives are spurious -- but to hold it to account. Their job is to ensure that we put before the people a fair, objective choice.

Yet Enda Kenny, making yet another fundamental fool of himself in terms of his democratic duty, actually sees himself as the torchbearer. He wants to lead out what he does not understand, the procession in which the steaming mess of potage is being carried forth for our approval.

A year ago, we made a democratic judgment. This year, at the annual Arbour Hill ceremony for Fianna Fail, Brian Cowen made an address about his party's firm espousal of democracy and how this had resolved Northern Ireland. It did no such thing. The Democratic Unionists resolved Northern Ireland. Without their commitment it would still be a mess. But that's politics: claim it if you can. He was right to tell us democracy mattered.

He has done the opposite with Lisbon, abandoning the democracy the day after the vote. He was then servile in courting European countries, telling them how sorry he was that the Irish people had insulted Europe and assuring them of changed times ahead.

He then isolated a few marginal issues, none sufficient for the size of the huge vote, invented a survey of the "real" Irish view on Lisbon and claimed that amending doubts about neutrality, abortion and taxation would do the trick. No need, he said, to look further into the more serious and fundamental EU drawbacks.

It did the trick. The EU conspired in public theatre designed to settle doubts and give us grounds for a re-run. That is what Martin and Cowen came back with last week.

The legal guarantees are worthless and do not change the treaty. However, they had the desired effect. A number of foolish and misguided public figures, respected for talk shows on television, selling groceries, writing poetry, went public and said they would vote 'Yes'.

The supposedly serious figures went public. Credibility cracked. Brigid Laffan, chairperson of Ireland for Europe, a 'Yes' vote body, said, on 'Questions and Answers' on Monday, we had guaranteed retention of Ireland's commissioner. This, if true, has nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty.

IF it had, it would not be possible to guarantee it. Europe does it under the Nice Treaty. That was why it was possible for Martin and Cowen to return with it, "in the bag". Brigid Laffan knows that. So does Billy Timmins, Fine Gael Foreign Affairs spokesman, who was on the same programme.

It does not help. Charlie McCreevy is no help on Lisbon and he works for Europe, not us. So why announce it as an "achievement"?

The Green Party's Eamon Ryan, on the same programme, could think of no good reason for supporting the treaty except that it would help newer members! It took Jim Higgins and Richard Waghorne to set the programme straight.

I expect politicians, like Enda Kenny and Billie Timmins, to speak truth and expose lies. That is the opposition's role -- not to support the sulphurous mess of potage for which Esau sold his birthright to that "smooth" brother of his, Jacob.

There is growing government determination to run the referendum campaign with huge, illegal support from the EU, preventing people from knowing what is in the treaty and what it means. This is what the debate is about.

We have to decide, for ourselves and for other benighted member states who have been denied any process of deciding these questions democratically, whether we want to create a super-power and ever afterwards to be subservient to it.

After 800 years of servile possession by outside powers, we are surrendering to a new servility and a new constitutional overlordship. Our citizenship would be secondary to European citizenship. The rights and duties would change. It would amount to a constitutional revolution throughout the EU and all its member states.

We would lose power. Large member states -- Germany, France, Italy, Britain -- would gain hugely. Our voting strength in Europe would go below 1pc of the total European vote. We would not "choose", only "suggest" our commissioner.

Any improvement in the EU parliament's power would be at the loss of power to the Dail.

One of the worst things would be reliance on an untested and unstable European Court of Justice. This would over-ride our courts as well as the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

It would thereafter decide the fundamental rights of all 500 million EU citizens.

I don't want any of this to happen. I will commit myself, as I did before, to fighting it in the Irish Independent from now until the second, unwanted and unnecessary referendum.