30 September 2002
The background to this dispute is quite interesting. Liddle wrote a column condemning the pro-hunt, pro-countryside, generally pro-Tory crowd after their recent march on London, and the BBC threatened to sack him for expressing an opinion that implied a pro-Labour Party stance in print. This has, of course, fascinating implications for weblogs done by journalists... Liddle chooses Guardian over Today. Media: Rod Liddle has stepped down as editor of the BBC Radio 4's Today programme. [Guardian Unlimited]
9:18:35 PM  #   your two cents []
SuSE first Linux provider in SAP partner program. Pact enables customers to use mySAP.com on SuSE Linux [InfoWorld: Top News]
9:15:39 PM  #   your two cents []

Here's a slightly different take on what might happen if Ireland votes no on Nice, after a long conversation today with someone who has talked to some of the EU side. To wit: even if Ireland votes No -- which would definitely cause problems and delays for the reorganisation needed for the admittance of the new "accession states" -- there won't be any real repurcussions by the other EU members against Ireland. Why? Because, on the one hand, Ireland has been a strong contributor to the European project and would still be seen as an important participant, esp. by states of similar size and outlook, like Denmark; and secondly: because a new treaty will need to be drawn up and presumably ratified somewhere down the line. Under this way of thinking, other states would be loathe to damage relations with Ireland and risk a third No vote.

Overall? I think, in the end, the actual administrative effect of a No vote features small against the perceived effect. The perceived effect would be damaging, at least in the immediate to short term, to inward investment. Ireland is an export nation heavily reliant on its multinationals, particularly in the tech sector, and any pullback on investment would be extremely worrying.

The irony of all of this is, of course, that Ireland is the only country which put the treaty to its people via a referendum rather than just rubberstamping it through its national parliament. Had other nations voted, we might be looking at a number of nations declining to approve it (Denmark comes to mind as a likely candidate country for nervousness about Nice). I also think that if a majority of voters come out to vote -- unlike last time, when a trickle appeared -- the vote will be for the treaty despite the general angry mood of the electorate, and no one will remember all this kerfuffle in a year's time.

9:08:59 PM  #   your two cents []

In a segment of today's Irish Times on the Nice Treaty Vote, reporter Colm Keena notes that Iona Technologies founder Chris Horn believes a 'no' vote will be 'disastrous' for the high-tech sector in Ireland. I think this is true. Setting aside what the Treaty actually would or would not do, it would be perceived as a defection from Europe by Ireland and a weakening of our ability to influence European affairs, especially by American multinationals who came to Ireland or are thinking of coming because 1)it offers a Euro-zone gateway to Europe; 2) it offers significant corporate tax benefits. The tech multinationals I've spoken to in particular seem confused at why Ireland is doing this.

I have heard those who argue that really, nothing would change. That may be true -- though I think that's wishful thinking -- at the very least, the other member states would no doubt be eager to strip Ireland of its special low corporate tax, which riles all the rest of them, from the British to the Germans. As I understand it, the Nice Treaty guarantees that states can set their own taxing strategies. If we have to start taxing at a common European level, our industry here and our ability to draw multinationals would decline immediately, as eastern Europe, Asia and other EU states such as Britain would no doubt have equally or more tempting commerce environments (either thru low cost of operation -- something we have lost -- or access to London finance etc etc). But if indeed nothing would change, you cannot totally reverse the marketing message the State has given multinationals for over a decade (the low corporate tax, the strong membership and support of Europe). Especially not as, in our economic success, we lose many of the advantages we once had (low wages, low property and land costs, mild traffic, etc etc).

I also hear from some friends in the Yes vote campaign that they are hearing shockingly racist comments on the doorstep -- and the fear of a so-called 'flood of immigrants' is one of the most disgraceful cards the No camp have been playing. Apparently this is so obvious a situation that the New York immigrant paper, the Irish Echo, has also picked up on it, says Bernie Goldbach. This to me is one of the most depressing and distressing aspects of Ireland, where I have lived since the mid-80s. In past writings in the Irish Times I've tackled the irony of the greatest emigrant nation on earth -- and one which has benefited enormously from its successful emigrants returning cash and influence to Ireland, and one which continues to demand special dispensation in the form of extra visas from the US (the Donnelly and Morrison visas) for its rather well-to-do population, at the expense of those from some of the poorest lands -- opposing all newcomers to its own State, now one of the wealthiest in Europe. Especially if skin colour is at all different from the Celtic white. Politicians, to their disgrace, totally avoided speaking out against racism during the last election (though some came out with some pretty revolting comments supporting it, especially down in Cork...). Yet the State has been one of the most generous in supporting famine victims in Africa, established an early boycott against South African fruit and vegetables in the 80s, and diplomatically has been seen as an ally to developing nations. But it failed singularly in preparing its own population for becoming a home to refugees, economic immigrants or a new workforce of varied hues. Go figure.

For years, I was tempted to leave Ireland because it has had such a stiflingly homogenous culture. Now, one can sense a new vibrancy from the State's new multicultural immigrants, who are already changing what it means to be Irish. Indeed, only last week the Armagh hurling team were thrilled to receive a letter wishing them luck in the All-Ireland final from none other than Muhammed Ali, who signed himself 'a fellow countryman' (he has a grandfather or greatgrandfather who originally came from Armagh). And massive crowds turned out at Mt Juliet golf course to watch Tiger Woods compete during the same week. So maybe you have to be famous to be acceptable. Certainly you wouldn't want to be black, Asian, middle eastern, Indian, Eastern European and just trying to live your ordinary day to day life over here. This issue, I think think, is Ireland's greatest and deepest shame. All of which rambles away from the Nice Treaty and its implications. But not much.

10:25:48 AM  #   your two cents []