If At First You Don’t Succeed ...

In truth, the treaty is so gargantuan and garbled that no sane person would undertake to read it, never mind understand it. Its size and lack of plain English is a fundamental flaw that cannot be overcome unless it is changed – Matt Cooper

It hasn’t gone away, you know. The Lisbon Treaty, just like a bad smell, continues to linger in public discourse prompted by ministerial comment and government sponsored surveys. Earth shattering news it most definitely is not to learn from the media that the EU is expecting the Irish government to buckle and hold another referendum in 2009. In Gramscian terms it looks like the Dublin political class is reconnoitring the commanding heights in a war of position before manoeuvring to shaft the electorate and give the middle finger to democratic sentiment. Matt Cooper in the latest issue of the Sunday Times alerts his readers to a government belief that in order to reverse the defeat it suffered in the referendum, it need only win over one quarter of those who voted ‘no’ on the basis that they did not understand the treaty last time around.

True the government is Tower of Babel-like in its reconstruction of a shattered European strategy, evidenced from the public variance between the positions of Taoiseach Cowen and Foreign Affairs Minister Martin. But there is a sneaking suspicion that the real intent is to be found in the position of European Affairs Minister Dick Roche when three weeks ago he informed the public of his private view that another referendum is the way to go in tackling the thorny issue of the rejected Lisbon Treaty. Kite flying is how Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou MacDonald aptly described it. It is hard to be persuaded that he is doing anything other than simply firing the opening salvo in a government attempt to mercilessly batter democracy into submission.

Had the last referendum provided the ruling clique with the result it wanted any suggestion that there should be a rerun of the contest would have seen the legs kicked from under it to outraged howls of approval from those swinging the boot. Their ire, were anybody to buy into it, provoked by a shameless fresh referendum contrived solely as a cynical assault on the democratic ethos they so strongly espouse. For Dick Roche and his ilk our democratic choices are restricted to voting for the things they, not we, think important. If every Fianna Fail general election triumph was met with a clamour for a new election, until the electorate eventually rejected Fianna Fail, Dick Roche would never be a minister.

Dick Roche, ominously and regrettably does not cut a lonely figure. Pat Cox a former president of the European Parliament decided to throw his shoulder behind the wheel that Roche was seeking to reinvent. That he has a background in the currently imploding right wing Progressive Democrats will serve to remind people that he is a wolf in wolf’s clothing, For Cox, ‘the enemy’ on the European question is not the business interests that would seek to lower wages, the bureaucracy that obfuscates in order to bamboozle voters, or the European Council that wishes to amass its own power while simultaneously disempowering Irish citizenry, but Sinn Fein, Libertas and media elements who had the temerity to highlight concerns that for some reason did not unduly concern Pat Cox. The government too drew his ire; it had forfeited its freedom which of course was the freedom to agree with him.

Back in May Cox had told people that those opposed to Lisbon were pedalling ‘stupid nonsense … unworthy of a serious national debate.’ Cox’s dubious assertion that it was rubbish to contend that people did not understand the case made by the ‘yes’ camp was left cruelly exposed by the recent report by Millward Brown IMS which purported to find that 42% of those who voted 'no' said they did so because of a lack of knowledge; that particular dearth being ‘the deciding issue of the campaign.’ Worse still for Cox, the government is now conceding the point made by many of it critics that there was a serious problem with the information disseminated about the Lisbon Treaty.

In the Irish Times of June 4 readers had the opportunity to weigh up the ‘stupid nonsense’ of Sinn Fein’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn juxtaposed to the intellectual brilliance of Cox. The people were invited to decide after a ‘national debate’ which was of course ‘unworthy’ and not serious. Decide they did. ‘The bastards’, as Brecht so purposefully termed them, chose the ‘nonsense’ of Mac Lochlainn.

Over the next year more ‘nonsense’ will be needed to ensure that Irish people remain vigilant and informed. A treaty that is persistently pushed against the expressed democratic wishes of the people who rejected it cannot be democratic. One less reason to vote ‘yes’ next time it comes up.

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