We will not, for a change, go to the polls to choose one conservative, centre-right party before another. We will decide if we want to be centrally involved in Europe or not. We will decide whether we’re inside Europe or outside, like Iceland, looking longingly at the opportunities and security we might have enjoyed.
Some may choose, once again, to be an isolationist, introverted and even more impoverished society though the most recent opinion poll (Yes: 48% +2%, No: 33% +4%, and Undecided: 19% -6%) thankfully indicates that prospect is diminishing.
It is that simple, that cut and dried. We’re either inside taking part or outside looking on, moving towards Tirana while turning our backs on Copenhagen.
The campaign has been revealing and to a degree frightening. It seems that there is no argument some Lisbon opponents will not make if it suits their purposes. Honesty has not constrained the extreme No campaigners in any way. The secretive COIR organisation best exemplifies this approach.
Despite assurances from independent mediators, Government and trade unions COIR contend that Ireland’s minimum wage would fall to €1.84 if we ratify the Treaty. COIR are lying to promote ignorance, instil fear and cause unwarranted uncertainty in an effort to block the Treaty.
They have equally reprehensible bedfellows in the United Kingdom Independence Party UKIP, an organisation not immediately recognised for its concern for Ireland’s wellbeing. A glance at UKIP’s policies gives a good indication of what they really are. They want Britain to quit the EU, they want to ban all immigration to Britain for five years — no exceptions for the Irish — and, almost predictably, they want Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. This closed-border policy is echoed by the shameful poster — Yes to Lisbon, Yes to Turkey, No way! — used to promote racism, fear and ignorance right across this country.
Surely we’ve seen enough of racism and bigotry, surely we can see through the arguments and recognise those who advance them for what they really are?
It is easy to see why Lisbon naysayers have to resort to these tactics. Each and every red herring used during the first treaty campaign has been disposed of.
We have clarity on taxation, we know that the EU cannot change Ireland’s position on abortion and we know that conscription to a European army is impossible. We know that we will retain a commissioner and, despite what COIR suggest, that the EU has no plan to introduce euthanasia to Ireland.
This country’s future is in the balance. We are virtually bankrupt and our road to recovery is far from clear. There is no indication much less certainty that we can return to the level of material wellbeing we enjoyed for the last decade. Ratifying Lisbon is just a first step to recovery. It may just be a first step but it is a prerequisite.
Europe is not perfect but taking the advice of COIR, UKIP or — more unlikely bedfellows — Sinn Féin would be disastrous. We should use the days before polling to ensure that the Treaty is ratified and encourage those as yet uncertain about how they will vote to vote for Ireland to stay at the centre of Europe.
Vote Yes, vote for a future; all our futures.