Whether you voted Yes or No in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, the fallout from the result says more about those at the helm of our EU ship than it will ever say about the Irish voters. The Yes voters should take particular note of the dictatorial attitude of the pilots of this supposed democratic arrangement. Instead of a gracious nod to the wishes of a people and admitting that it is now necessary to go back to the drawing board, they moved the goalposts immediately, with much indignant and condescending posturing, insisting that the other 26 countries of the Union should ratify and then they would find a solution to the Irish problem. Meanwhile, our yellow politicians feel embarrassed.
There is something very wrong with this picture. We heard how it took years of work to come up with the Lisbon Treaty and now we are trying to spitefully de-rail progress; after all they have done for us. Just because it took years in the making doesn’t necessarily make it good. Ireland has benefited greatly from Europe, no one disputes that, but in a democratic process aren’t we allowed an opinion?
The Lisbon Treaty wasn’t ratified in Ireland because no one was really prepared to clearly state what it was about, which led to serious suspicions that it was weighted towards the bigger countries in the union. It was veiled in complexity and jargon that led our own politicians to say things like ‘No, I haven’t actually read it yet, but vote yes anyway’. There were other utterances along the lines that it would be impossible for anyone to read it and understand it, but we still want you to vote yes.
Thankfully common sense prevailed and it wasn’t an anti European stance that carried the No vote, it was the simple fact that we couldn’t see exactly how this was going to affect us, in order to make a clear judgment on whether it was ultimately good or bad for the country. Would you sign any document without reading and understanding the small print? It’s odd that all our politicians seemed to want us to do that. What do they know that we don’t? If they were so sure it was a good Treaty why couldn’t they verbalise it?
Parts of the Treaty were quite plain. Anyone who has ever sat on a committee of any sort, be it charity, community or even work related, will be sympathetic to the fact that it is very difficult to get 27 people to agree on anything. Committees by their very nature work better as small cores and so as the Union grew it became obvious that 27 countries, each with a representative, could create a lumbering and ineffective office.
However, let’s take it back to what the Union is all about in the first place. I cannot say if the original architects always had a hidden agenda of devolving power from respective governments into one central power, hell bent on making us all the same and creating a Europe that consisted of small countries rather than small countries that make up Europe. Maybe they did, but surely it is our diversity that makes such a union great. Shouldn’t we be celebrating our differences and enjoying what each country can bring to the party rather than trying to make us all the same?
I would like to think that the general idea was for a democratic situation where each country could help and benefit the other through experience, products, goods and services and also foster good relationships with our neighbouring countries in the process. Instead it seems to be this sinister, grey blob making rules that impact greatly without understanding the localised issues and problems. Even though they try hard with their EU laws, isn’t it crazy to think that it is possible to have an all inclusive tax law across the continent, an all inclusive agricultural and fisheries policy or an all inclusive security policy. At best it is idealistic and at its worst, oppressive and unhelpful.
There can be no doubt that we have benefited greatly from being part of the EU. Our roads alone are testament to that and the obscenely large signs dotted along our highways never let us forget where the smooth tarmac came from. The tide of money has now dried to a trickle but that’s alright, because now, despite a downturn, we are still much more prosperous than ever before and in theory should be in a position to give back to other countries coming on stream that need our help. However we are now left with the uneasy situation where perhaps the stewards that we had in charge during the boom never properly planned for such payback, but that’s another day’s work. I personally have no problem thinking that one day some eastern European country will think fondly of the Irish taxpayer for their local youth club building or fancy three-lane highway.
Our borders are open, we can freely travel around the continent of Europe and trade and business between the countries has been made considerably easier with the single currency which is, thankfully, in a strong position today despite the downturn and even though Britain refused to give up sterling. I am pro Europe when it comes to working together on climate change and on making sure that employment, education and health standards across Europe are excellent; we have much to learn from the way other countries do things.
Being a part of Europe means we have a vast pool of experience and facts to pull from and consult. But shouldn’t we also be allowed to stand alone and make appropriate decisions for our individual country? Shouldn’t we be allowed to fish our own waters, grow what we like and milk as many cows as we want and let the market and our own governance dictate? Shouldn’t our own government, elected by us, decide what tax laws and security laws are necessary and beneficial and shouldn’t we be in charge of our own moral compass – why is this too much to ask?
Do they think we are not capable of making good decisions in these areas, decisions that will be for the good of ourselves and our fellow Europeans? Maybe Europe feels that the smaller countries are just maverick in attitude and will be irresponsible and selfish in what they do. This is an oversimplification of the EU and our place in it, but it shouldn’t be made so difficult that it is unintelligible.
We are constantly reminded of our 800 years of past occupation and oppression. Our history is built on the thousands that fought and died for our freedom that is, as yet, not even 100 years old and here we are, seemingly willing to start a process of handing it over again to a centralised European government, who are not even next door to us, but somewhere in the middle of the continent. If the Lisbon Treaty is not about centralising more power then why can’t they say that clearly and definitively? Instead of being embarrassed our Taoiseach and representatives should be proud that they govern a nation of free thinkers and not sheep, living in fear of the big EU stick.