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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Aug 23, 2010 - 8:24:15 PM


The Lisbon Treaty, Ireland and The Skibbereen Eagle
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Oct 1, 2009 - 1:03:59 AM

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Europe from the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite.

The Lisbon Treaty debate in Ireland, has had echoes of The Skibbereen Eagle, against the backdrop of a struggle to deal with the fallout from an economic bust that was mainly self-inflicted.

The mantle of being surrogates for the rest of Europeans is risible.

In 1898, The Skibbereen Eagle, one of  two newspapers in the West Cork town of Skibbereen, won international fame when it had thundered in an editorial against Russia's Tsar Nicholas II, who had expansionist designs on the crumbling Chinese empire. The editor had ominously warned that his newspaper would be keeping an "eye" on the tsar!

On Wednesday, journalist Vincent Browne advised his readers in The Irish Times to: "Vote No and rejoice."

The word "rejoice" was used by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, when she declared victory in the Falklands' War in 1982. On Saturday if the referendum is rejected, English nationalists who pine for the days of an empire where the sun never set, along with wealthy journalists in Ireland, for whom practical experience of the world beyond Ireland is as tourists, will toast a victory with a congeries of other malcontents from across the political spectrum.

The European Union has a number of the world's best run countries, such as Sweden and Denmark. Why should Ireland presume to lecture them on democracy or anything else for that matter?

Should they emulate Irish cronyism, Victorian era secrecy in public affairs and a system where 'conflict of interest' is an alien concept e.g. some Irish local authorities have elected membership of up to 50% with commercial property interests, but that is no bar to voting on land rezoning?

Vincent Browne must think the Swedes are stupid because he claims the European Defence Agency (EDA) may get involved in resource wars in Africa. Earlier this year, he compared the EDA with the Real IRA.

The Irish should protect Swedes and others from their ignorance! Neutral Sweden doesn't of course rely on toy soldiers.

There is no shortage of people who wish to have their cake and eat it and being wrong in Ireland is no badge of dishonour. Just ask some of the economists who journalists still give the tag of "leading."

This week, the perennial EEC/EU Mr. No., Anthony Coughlan, was reported to have written to the Referendum Commission chairman Mr Justice Frank Clarke strongly criticising his, and his commission’s role in the referendum campaign.

He complained that the explanatory guide produced by the commission made no attempt to inform citizens about the proposed constitutional amendment, despite that being its prime statutory duty.

“As for yourself personally, instead of doing the job which the Referendum Acts impose on you, you have arrogated to yourself the task of answering questions on the Lisbon Treaty on the radio and in the press, in which you give your personal opinions and judgments, whereas all statements by the commission should be collectively agreed by its members, as the Referendum Acts clearly envisage,” Coughlan wrote.

“In no way do the Referendum Acts authorise you to do the ‘solo runs’ on radio and in the press that you have undertaken.”

Coughlan is described as Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Social Policy at Trinity College, which means he's retired - - he could afford to be wrong, given his guaranteed salary and now excellent pension.

In 1972, he warned that the idyllic economic backwater that was Ireland, was risking German and Dutch skilled workers coming ashore to steal the jobs of the locals. God forbid that we could risk importing alien technology. Even then, the policy of attracting US firms was improving the economy.

We should not underestimate the number of comfortable Coughlans, for whom the business world is an alien place of fat cat developers and latter-day versions of the United Fruit Company. How many of them would know a typical Irish SME owner who works long hours and with a staff for whom the monthly orders' received total is a temporary source of satisfaction or longer-term fear, in a challenging world?

From an international perspective, the shine disappeared from the Celtic Tiger some years ago. What we surely don't need in these perilous times, is deluded people, who have no knowledge of international business or diplomacy, believing that they have found some philosopher's stone that will restore prosperity without the cooperation/goodwill of other EU countries and the world business community.

As with former US President George W. Bush, multilateralism is fine, until it's not. The EU may be needed to promulgate worthwhile anti-climate change measures; we can be nuclear free but import electricity from the UK, that maybe nuclear generated and dare anyone imperil our neutrality -  - as to who are we neutral between, is another story and anyway, why complicate things when fantasy is better comfort food than dealing with a murky reality!

Roger Cole, another anti-Lisbon campaigner, said in The Irish Times on Wednesday, that "a No vote to Lisbon is a vote against war."

Our century is young but this is the first where war between the great powers of Western Europe is inconceivable. Would we have this achievement if the legions of niggly nitpickers had real power beyond the comfort of their armchairs?

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