Bruce Arnold

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

The simplistic message of fear that if we don't say Yes we won't have access to ESM won referendum

The lion's share of credit for the referendum result goes to Enda Kenny and Fine Gael, on which he has placed a discipline unknown, I think, under any previous leader.

In general terms he knows what he wants. He does not articulate the purpose behind his objectives at all well. He does not debate well and wisely avoids that avenue by which most Irish politicians chart the direction they are taking.

Those who do debate are not great either -- Brian Cowen was an inelegant bully, Bertie Ahern was inarticulate. Others, going back over the past 20 years, were not much better. John Bruton, whose fine mind and forceful approach represented one of the big political losses to the country, was an exception.

Enda Kenny recognises his limitations and, more rarely, is guided by them. His single-track simplicity suits the voting public which is widely in despair about politicians generally, a factor in one aspect of the referendum result, that a certain percentage of voters believed that more European leadership was better for us.

The Yes side was helped by the fact that there was no real debate to have with the No side, nor with anyone else for that matter. On the day we voted Yes to stability the euro was tumbling, the markets falling, the very future of the currency more in doubt than it has been during the period of the crisis and the crisis itself -- which its analysts like regularly to present as being on the cusp of recovery -- is well into at least its third year and getting worse.

Strapped as we are, we voted for more hardship and for a generous transfer of money we don't have to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). This won't work to our advantage. That was the real purpose behind this referendum -- not debated on at all -- to open the way to greater control by the present dismal leadership of the EU.

Also, on the day we voted, Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, was telling us all that the European political leadership to which we were blithely transferring more power, was not fit for purpose and had been culpably slow to respond to each stage in the developing crisis. His view was only the politicians of the member nations could solve it.

On the day of his blunt speech we were voting to reduce the power of our own politicians and hand more of that power to a European leadership whose half-measures and delays "had made the eurozone crisis worse", according to Mario Draghi.

"Dispel this fog," he told them. He was addressing the European Parliament, a powerless body that supposedly represents a complexity of 17 leaders in 17 parliaments answerable to different constitutions and different electorates but all hanging on the words and intentions of the German chancellor.

The jubilation with which the referendum result was greeted by the overwhelming aggregate of our political parties was misplaced. It was a sobering outturn in a number of ways, perhaps the most notable and least considered being the significantly strong No vote. In time this will be recognised as offering a wiser course of action, to wait and see.

Absolutely in character, Enda Kenny's first reaction was to ring up Angela Merkel and tell her we had a Yes vote; now could we have a better deal on the bank debt? I thought it a bit wide of the mark, given the Greek and Spanish crises, in which those two countries were ahead of the pack as they tumbled down the hill towards the sea.

I would be the first to admit the No side ran a poor campaign, making it even more difficult to explain its solid 40pc support. It had no comprehensive answer to the simplistic message on the Yes side. This, based on a diet of fear for the electorate, simply gave out that if we don't vote Yes we won't have access to the ESM, something that does not exist and is really just part of the ad hoc nonsense referred to above and so strongly criticised by Mario Draghi, described this week as "the single most powerful figure in the eurozone drama".

The Yes side got into trouble occasionally, either by saying that we won't need a second bailout or that we must vote Yes to access a second bailout. It was puerile stuff. But it was sufficient to counter the unco-ordinated and ill-prepared No side.

From Declan Ganley to Joe Higgins and Sinn Fein, the No side did not make the right case.

Mr Ganley, who came in too late, presented broad arguments about the lack of a democratic structure and then ran a virtually solo and mainly philosophical campaign. The Left argued the ancient homily -- 'What about the Workers? -- and Sinn Fein did its increasingly effective mime act representing Fianna Fail, whose campaign strategy was laughably poor in quality.

The No side argument was a simple one. Within the rising tide of euro chaos the ESM -- a main plank in the Yes side agenda -- has not yet been established and is increasingly seeking a convincing answer to the question: where will the money come from? Our own contribution is a huge one and no one here knows where that is coming from. So how about big economies like Spain, and seriously suffering economies like Greece? And Spain, rather than contributing, will straight away need all of the ESM's resources and more.

That all lies in the future and will do more than take the edge off the enthusiasm of the referendum victory, a mindless display of our usual capacity for enjoying a victory for its own sake. This victory is one we will not enjoy as it progresses to strip us of further power and a lot more of taxpayers' money.

It was a handicap that the No side leadership fell into the hands of Sinn Fein. Politically, that party is pretending to be No side because that suits its struggle to replace Fianna Fail as the main opposition. But in essence Sinn Fein is a conservative party and it masquerades as a party of the Left. The masquerade will end when it replaces Fianna Fail and gets within shouting distance of government. In the meantime it manages to undermine not just one, but both parties it seeks to replace -- Labour being its other target on which it landed significant damage over the past month of campaigning.

In the immediate future the Government has to work out how it satisfies the Financial Regulator's view that the Irish banks will need another €3bn or €4bn because of Basel rules, in addition to which we face the expensive problem of mortgage default.

Perhaps the last word should go to Angela Merkel. She said, also on Thursday: "I have always said we need more Europe". But she hastened to add, "It will take time."

We have given her all the more of Europe that we can. The surrender is total. We will suffer as a result.