Declan Ganley is not everyone’s cup of tea. But then neither is Brian Cowen, Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore or Gerry Adams for that matter.
That Mr Ganley has made a major impact on the body politic is indisputable. That he has helped to fuel a genuine debate on our place within the European Union is also beyond doubt.
And, if his intervention in politics over the past 12 months ultimately serves no greater purpose than that, then history (and the mainstream media) may well judge his emergence in a favourable light.
He has certainly lit a fire under the posteriors of several Irish MEPs given the feelings some uttered about the Libertas leader during a seminar with the regional media on Thursday last.
Sitting in one of the European Parliament’s major meeting, complete with curved desks, bottled water and interpreting booths, Proinsias De Rossa couldn’t have been any more adamant regarding Mr Ganley.
“I believe that everything he says is bunkum,” said the Dublin MEP. “He talks about transparency when he is not even accountable himself which makes him contradictory about pretty much everything he says. All Declan Ganley is interested in is promoting Declan Ganley.”
While the European election in June is the most pressing matter on their minds, the Lisbon Treaty was destined to enter any dialogue between politicians and press – and so it did.
“Getting 27 victories and zero defeats is very difficult,” British MEP Richard Corbett told us. “Look how long the Irish rugby team waited to achieve its grand slam and you see how difficult it is to secure every desired result.
“But is it unreasonable to ask, in a situation where 25 have already said ‘yes’ [to Lisbon] and just ‘one’ to date has said no, to ask the one that’s said ‘no’ to reconsider?”
A consummate speaker – he never gave the impression that he was telling Irish people what they ought to do, Mr Corbett said he didn’t believe that last year’s ‘no’ vote had damaged Ireland’s reputation at EU level.
This was at odds with the soundings of an Irish official who spoke to us in Brussels last November, who literally spoke of being ashamed following our rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.
Despite my position on the Treaty (I voted yes), I found the official’s tone astonishing and quite offending to the democratic will of the people.
Many find having to revisit Lisbon just as offensive to Irish democracy, to which I say only this: if you still don’t like the Treaty, vote no again. But consider too that the sky didn’t fall upon us when we revisited the Nice Treaty and opted to slip under its French-sounding covers.
In the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, I read the following passage in the introduction of Tim Pat Coogan’s recently published memoir. It struck a chord within the context of the great Lisbon debate.
Following his ‘wading through blood’ speech in Dungarvan on March 16th 1922, Eamon de Valera was asked why he appeared to be opting for war among his own people rather than democracy.
Writes Coogan: “De Valera refused to abate his course, saying, when it was pointed out to him that a majority of the people favoured acceptance of the treaty, that the majority have no right to do wrong.”
Am I saying that the majority were wrong regarding Lisbon? Absolutely not. Everyone must vote according to their individual conscience and it is up to all citizens to accept what comes thereafter.
Another book was consulted in the course of my column homework when awaking at an hour when the bird themselves were still crouched, nesting and without song.
“The main achievement of the European Union has been to bring together countries which fought each other for a thousand years, and intertwine them so closely that nowadays they scarcely think of each other’s citizens as foreign,” wrote the BBC’s John Simpson in ‘Not Quite World’s End’.
Yes, our fishing rights were disgracefully surrendered. Yes, it is wrong that farmers are paid, largely though no choice of their own, to be unproductive.
But today, if I so choose, I can get in my car, drive through Britain and all the way to the Polish frontier with Russia, without producing my passport. It was not always so.
This continent, after centuries of massive military engagements and millions of deaths, is at peace. That is mainly thanks to the European Union, which surely makes it a more positive, than negative presence in our lives.