‘Save our values’ — the case against Lisbon by an endangered species

THE three chimpanzees have been peering down at me lately from various lampposts. Very cute they are too, placed there courtesy of Dublin-based group Cóir, which claims a membership of 2,000 people. But the Captive Animals Protection Society is not very happy.

It has maintained the posters are of animals in captivity — “likely kept and trained specifically for use in commercials … their use not only helps continue the use of animals for commercial purposes but also diminishes their status as an endangered species requiring protection”.

It is just as well they didn’t use posters with freshwater pearl mussels or natterjack toads which, according to this week’s report compiled under the EU Habitats Directive, are also species in need of protection.

Former Green party councillor Richard Greene, who is spokesman for Cóir, said no chimpanzee had been harmed in the production of its posters and that “these great chimpanzees are helping to save democracy, which is a lot more than can be said for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the others”.

Good for the chimps — at least someone is standing up for us, and I can’t imagine the natterjack toads or the pearl mussels would do as effective a job because they would not be able to put hands over their eyes like the chimps and tell us ‘The New EU Won’t See You, Won’t Hear You, Won’t Speak for You’.

Sounds exactly like the current situation with the EU and indeed with Irish governments for as long as I can remember, so what is really going to change? Well, apparently, there is going to be lots of abortion and euthanasia.

Worryingly, Cóir is based at the same Dublin address as Youth Defence, which means talk about abortion and euthanasia is inevitable. Cóir has issued a guide to the Lisbon Treaty arguing that Catholics should not vote in favour of it and has distributed leaflets claiming the treaty could change Irish laws on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and prostitution.

According to Cóir, “the charter of fundamental human rights attached to the Lisbon Treaty makes it certain that the European Court of Justice will have the power to insist that Ireland legalise abortion”.

Every time an Irish referendum is called on an EU issue, there is always someone to tell us we’re on our way to hell and will be swamped with alien, immoral and inherently un-Irish practices because those continentals are godless and sex-mad.

In 1973, Brian Rothery, in his book What Europe Means to the Irish, insisted that Ireland had remained isolated from “the manifestations of conventional sexuality that sweep across Europe”, where things were very different. “There is much vulgarity in Europe. Pornography is the most vulgar thing. Pornography is rampant in Holland, Germany and Denmark... sex shops filled with phallic objects and bizarre devices and clothes, some of which are extremely ugly... magazine covers and pictures depicting in close-up every kind of sexual activity and perversion; newspapers advocate every kind of sexual behaviour.” Rothery also suggested the Catholic Church would inevitably be weakened by Ireland’s entry to Europe. “The Catholic faith is bolstered by fierce nationalism … as immigrants into a new Europe we cannot take our Catholicism or our fierce nationalism into Europe. They will not give a damn about our Sunday morning mass in the Germany or France that we go to.”

Rothery queried the Department of Justice as to whether there would be an increase in the importation of sexually explicit literature and other “devices” as a result of EEC membership.

He was informed that the legal implications to be assumed by the country on accession to the EEC did not extend to, or affect, the laws relating to censorship or contraceptives.

Rothery was unimpressed. “All signs are that the dykes are about to break. Europe now threatens to expose us… by making contraceptives available and by creating standards of living that allow divorce.”

The message was clear — keep Ireland poor and we would retain the faith and avoid immorality. It was in fact the Irish Supreme Court that declared the Irish laws on contraceptives unconstitutional and the Catholic Church’s own internal contradictions that ensured its loss of influence and domination in recent years. Pornography may have been more visible in other European countries in those days, but there was much going on behind closed doors in Ireland that was a hell of a lot more serious and disturbing.

Europe was always, and still is, a convenient whipping boy for the extremists, and there was no shortage of people, even 35 years ago, to satirise them. An Irish Times article written by Donal Foley in 1972, entitled ‘The Church Goes to Market’, predicted “massive redundancies will take place in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland when Ireland enters the European Community in January, according to plans prepared by the Most Reverend Dr Mansholt, Bishop of Brussels, at the request of the Irish Management Institute. Mansholt noted ‘there are far too many Catholics in Ireland’… 100,000 Irish Catholic heads are expected to roll as a result of the Mansholt axe.” Cóir has also claimed the Lisbon Treaty “will give the EU the right to decide our values”. I’m not sure what “our values” actually means in the context of the EU, but historically, we certainly can’t claim moral superiority when our attitudes to a variety of issues are measured against those of our European neighbours.

The Irish section of the European Value Systems Study, for which surveys were conducted in 1981, showed that Irish people in general were less tolerant of abortion, divorce, homosexuality, prostitution and under-age sex than their European counterparts.

DID this make us more ‘moral’ and highlight that “our values” were superior because gay men were criminalised under threat of a life imprisonment for homosexual activity, women were forced to travel abroad for abortions, prostitutes were faced with horrendous violence in the underworld and people whose marriages had irretrievably broken down also faced a life sentence? As for underage sex, the idea that such activity is inherently unIrish has always been a myth.

That 1981 study also found the Irish were a lot less ‘moral’, or concerned with social ethics or public morality than some of their fellow Europeans when it came to issues like fraudulently claiming social welfare benefits and tax evasion.

On a range of one to 10, where one meant that a certain kind of behaviour was never justified, and 10 that it was always justified, cheating on taxes scored 2.64 in Europe as a whole. In Ireland, the score was 3.35.

It also found that people in the Republic disapproved more strongly of stealing a neighbour’s car than of stealing his or her spouse. Ten years ago, the EU anti-fraud unit announced that in the previous year there were 149 known acts of frauds against EU funds in Ireland, to the value of £7 million. Try and figure out the morality of all that. I’m sure there are many valid reasons for voting against the Lisbon Treaty, and hats off to all those who are forcing serious debate about its merits or otherwise, but the “our values” argument is jaded and dishonest.

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