September 15, 2008
Ireland has had a pretty awful summer. It has rained every day, the recession is beginning to bite and, of course, we tried to ruin everyone else’s holiday by rejecting the Lisbon Treaty.
Several surveys following the referendum confirmed that Irish citizens did not regret that decision one bit. In fact increasing numbers claim that they would vote “No” again if the Government attempted a rerun.
In Ireland, the sun eventually peeks through after weeks or rain. The first rays finally came when on 10 September the government published its in-depth analysis of why people voted “No”. It transpires that a grand total of 42% of people had no idea what they were rejecting. 33% thought that a “Yes” meant conscription into a European army and abortion on demand!
To be fair, the Treaty text itself and a very lacklustre information campaign were more to blame than the people themselves. But at least the findings provide some rational for revisiting the debate.
I would not suggest that suddenly an increasingly sceptical public is ready for another vote. They will surely demand their pound of flesh – the question they are asked next time will somehow need modification.
Two ideas are circulating: putting controversial aspects of the Treaty to the people in a series of yes/no questions with the parts they reject resulting in opt-outs; or a simple opt-out on defence.
Neither solution makes a whole pile of sense. The former would be a legal nightmare, and we already have the Seville Declaration in the Irish Constitution which protects Irish neutrality, making the latter seems pointless.
And now for a prediction: a solution will eventually be found and Ireland and Europe will stumble forward, but only until the next time a member state has to put something to their citizens. Because all we are really discussing is what type of bandage to use. The real question is do we need more radical surgery to ensure the future health of the European project?Ireland