8:23:41 PM # your two cents 
8:05:25 PM # your two cents 
Mostly I think everyone's just glad this vote is now over. An Irish friend told me this morning that visiting Finnish friends said their understanding of the issues from the Finnish press was that Ireland had gained more than almost any EU country from EU membership and now, in its prosperity, was rejecting Europe and the entry of new countries. I am sure this was often the picture given abroad and it is easy to see why: it is a simple view and a simple analysis, a quick boiling-down of complexity.
The reality is (and I think the strong Yes vote confirms) that this angle featured almost not at all except in the arguments of some farmers and fisherman, who feared other EU nations taking control to Ireland's detriment of the payments and support and fishing rights they receive; and some revolting, right-wing bigots whose overtly racist campaign opposed immigration by anyone. Irish people were far more worried that the new structures proposed for an enlarged EU took away much of the voice and veto power of the small EU nations and handed it to the big countries; that Ireland's neutrality was threatened and the state might be forced into a European military (this is a huge issue in Ireland); that Ireland was one of the only EU countries to say it would allow full cross-border immigration and thus could receive a disproportionate share of early eastern European economic immigrants; that Ireland's natural resources, especially its fisheries, would be controlled by big states like France or Spain who, having overfished their own territories, already get the lion's share of what were once Irish waters. And there were lots of other frustrations -- the fact that the government told everyone that they'd have to vote again after the people voted down the treaty once (just keep holding elections til you get the answer you want!); the fact that Irish people feel betrayed by the current government on a number of internal, economic issues so a No vote was seen as a vote against the govt; and so on.
The most extraordinary piece of campaigning I saw in the whole election was Sinn Fein's argument that a Yes vote would be a vote for the EU to have its own private army. So the party, self-described in the past as "the political wing of the IRA", apparently feels that it alone is entitled to a private army and no one else can have one?! This is a party with absolutely no sense of shame or any awareness of the more sickening realms of irony that it enters with disturbing regularity. Don't get me wrong, there are individuals within SF who have been courageous and hard working in advancing the peace process here and indeed, nothing would have happened without the party's commitment. But there's still a real thug element in some corners. I think one of the No campaign's biggest mistakes was its main, controversial poster that showed a gun to the head of a man, with the slogan "Don't Be Bullied". With SF one of the major planks of the No campaign, the poster can only have served to remind people of just who they were getting in bed with if they voted No. A bit too close to the bone.
All that said, I think that the vote might have gone differently had a number of EU countries also had a referendum on the treaty. Ireland was the *only* state that did. In the end, that left us feeling we would be abandoning the eastern European nations who want to join the European project, and sending out a very negative vibe on how we see the EU, when actually, in repeated EU surveys the Irish are probably the most enthusiastic Europeans and most supportive of the EU project. I think many Irish people felt regrettably bossed into voting Yes when all they really wanted was a more open and democratic renegotiation of what is widely seen as a sloppy and poorly-conceived treaty, written without any democratic consultation with the member states.
12:27:55 PM # your two cents 
12:05:49 AM # your two cents 
Copyright 2003 Karlin Lillington
Theme Design by Bryan Bell