Not the will of the people, but the fear of the people, has led a majority of Irish voters to approve ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in yesterday’s re-run referendum.
Ireland’s voters voted not on the content of Lisbon but on membership of the EU, on fear of political isolation if they did not say Yes to the same Treaty as they said No to last year, and on the promise of jobs and economic recovery which the Yes-side bullied and bamboozled them into believing was they would get if they only voted Yes.
Thus the bankrupt Irish political Establishment, which has ruined its country’s economy, has opted through stupidity and fear to clamp an undemocratic Constitution on itself and most of Europe.
This year the Republic of Ireland will suffer a decline of nearly one-tenth in its economic output; it will have a Budget deficit equivalent to 12% of GDP, an unemployment rate of some 14% of its labour force and resumed net emigration from the country.
One accepts the result of the Lisbon re-run as a fact, but it is not a result that democrats need morally or politically to identify with or approve. This result does not have political legitimacy, whatever the voting percentages amount to, because of the fraudulent and undemocratic way in which the referendum was run, making it unique in these respects among the 30 or so referendums that have been held in Ireland since its Constitution was adopted in 1937.
With limitless money provided by the Brussels Commission, the political parties in the European Parliament, the Irish Government and private business firms, Ireland’s Yes-side forces easily outspent the Nos by at least ten to one in a referendum campaign which was unique in modern Irish history for its massive unlawfulness and breaches of the country’s referendum law.
There were at least six dimensions to this illegality:
1) The intervention of the European Commission, entailing massive expenditure of money to influence Irish opinion towards a Yes, the running of a web-site and the issuing of statements that sought to counter No-side arguments, and the adocacy of a Yes vote by Commission President Barroso and other Commissioners and their staffs during visits to Ireland. This is unlawful under European law, as the Commission has no function in relation to the ratification of new Treaties, something that is exclusively a matter for the Member States under their own constitutional procedures;
2.) The part funding of the posters and press advertising of most of Ireland’s Yes-side political parties by their sister parties in the European Parliament, even though it is illegal under Irish law to receive donations from sources outside the country in a referendum and even though, under European law, money provided by the European Parliament to cross-national political parties is supposed to be confined to informational-type material and to avoid partisan advocacy;
3) The Irish Government’s unlawful use of public funds in circulating to voters a postcard with details of the so-called “assurances” of the European Council, followed by a brochure some time later containing a tendentious summary of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, as well as other material – steps that were in breach of the 1995 Irish Supreme Court judgement in McKenna that it is unconstitutional of the Government to use public funds to seek to obtain a particular result in a referendum;
4) The failure of the country’s statutory Referendum Commission to carry out its function under the Referendum Act that established it of explaining to citizens how the proposed constitutional amendment and its text would affect the Irish Constitution. Instead the Commission’s Chairman, Judge Frank Clarke, turned the Commission into an arm of Government propaganda, while the judge indulged himself in various “solo-runs” on radio and in the newspapers, giving several erroneous explanations of provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, even though this was quite beyond his powers under the Act;
5) Huge expenditure of money by private companies such as Intel and Ryanair to advocate a Yes vote, without any statutory limit, in possible breach of Irish company and tax law, and undoubtedly constituting a major democratic abuse.
6) Breaches by the Irish broadcast media of their obligation under the Broadcasting Acts to be fair to all interests concerned in their coverage of issues of public controversy and debate. Newstalk 106, owned by Mr Denis O’Brien, a committed supporter of the Yes side, was quite shameless in its partisanship on its current affairs programmes.
Democrats across Europe will now hope that the brave President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, will hold back Czech ratification of the Treaty until the constitutional challenge that has been launched there is completed and there is a change of Government in Britain by next May. In that way the promise of a referendum made to the British people in the Labour Party’s Election Manifesto may yet be fulfilled under the Conservatives – something that would give our fellow countrymen and women in Northern Ireland a chance of voting on this EU Constitution.
In June the German Constitutional Court laid down that the basic principles of democracy required that there should be parliamentary control of how Government Ministers from the EU Member States exercised various implementing powers under the Lisbon Treaty – for example the “simplified revision procedure” of Article 48 TEU whereby policy areas can be shifted from unanimity to majority voting without need of new Treaties or referendums.
Germany instituted such parliamentary controls in September. Ireland has done so in the Constitutional Amendment people voted for yesterday. Similar parliamentary controls should now be sought through Court actions in as many EU countries as possible in the interest of defending what is left of democracy in Europe.
If Lisbon however should go through and come into force for all 27 States, giving the post-Lisbon EU the constitutional form of a Federation and turning 500 million people into real EU citizens for the first time without their being asked, that is bound to make the question of national independence and democracy the main issue of European politics for years and possibly decades to come – not least in Ireland, whose modern political history has been largely a struggle against the drawbacks of its people being made citizens of another country.
The Lisbon Two referendum has exposed the moral and political bankruptcy of Ireland’s main political parties. There is a vacuum in Irish politics, as there is in many other EU countries, when all the “Establishment” political parties line up on one side and so many of the country’s citizens are on the other.
Across Europe huge numbers of citizens are not being properly represented by those who have been elected to represent them. The coming period in history will see many attempts to fill this political vacuum, in Ireland and elsewhere.