Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lies, damned lies and Lisbon

Forgive the delay in posting, but things have been hectic! As I have some time off coming up, expect a lot more from this direction in the next few weeks!

This is an article I had published recently...

Three debates, countless articles and 148,000,000 press releases (ok, so that's an exaggeration), I'm all Lisbon-ed out. Every journalist in the country is the same, hence Today FM giving airtime to Jim Corr last week in an attempt to introduce some light relief. Like a lot of political junkies, election time is like a holiday for me. I love the sound of canvassers on the march, of leather slapping cement and leaflets floating from letterbox to doormat.So you'd expect me to be screaming with joy that, just a month after a cabinet reshuffle, I have been granted the 'cherry on top' - a referendum. Normally, I would.

But normal rules don't apply to European referenda. Every European referendum campaign ever fought here has been populated by a few of the sane, many of the temporarily insane, and, in large measure, the people for whom sanity has never been an option.

While the media do our best to cover the Lisbon Treaty, you'd be hard-pressed to find an average Joe who knows what it's about. Except for someone I met in the pub recently, who told me that it's about introducing the one-child policy. And there was the woman who told me we're all going to be micro-chipped. These people will believe practically anything, because it says so on the posters, or in the leaflet, or on the internet.

With the 'no' campaigns telling us, variously, that Lisbon will introduce abortion, euthanasia, micro-chipping, detention of small children, huge military spending and lots more bad things, it really puts it up to the yes campaign to think of some really brilliant advantages to voting yes.

But there's the rub. There are no really fantastic, outstanding, thoroughly convincing reasons to vote yes. Just like most of the really horrific, terrifying reasons we are being given to vote no don't exist.

This is an international treaty. Treaties are painstakingly written, excruciatingly negotiated, dense legal documents drafted by the best legal experts Europe has to offer. Look at last week's conference on cluster bombs – hours spent arguing whether the word 'strongly' should be used in encouraging countries not to use the weapons.

The average person is not intended to understand international treaties. Not because anyone is trying to confuse us, but because they have to be entirely unambiguous. They must be airtight, open to one interpretation and one only, so that every country involved knows the legal constraints into which they are entering, and so that these cannot be changed summarily by the European Court of Justice.

Voting for the Lisbon Treaty, for most of us, is largely going to depend on who we trust. If we trust the politicians we elected, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour voters will vote yes, as well as people who believe IBEC, ICTU, and Chambers Ireland. Because 'trusting politicians' is something of an oxymoron these days, many of us will choose to vote no, choosing instead to believe Libertas, Sinn Féin, Cóir and the Socialist Party.

No matter how Lisbon-jaded you are, though, vote. There's a week left, so try to inform yourself, and if you can't, choose who you trust most.