The real lessons from the Brexit debate
There have been few voices dissenting from the position taken by the political establishment on Brexit.
That is a pity. Whatever view one takes, the underlying issues and the extent to which they resonate the deeply-felt concerns of countries across the Union merited a deeper and more reflective debate. The whole point about the UK Referendum is that the concerns of voters about policy failures across the EU have been ignored by those countries and institutions that hold power and determine policy.
Inequality has increased and is now institutionalised. Germany has a current surplus of nine per cent, strong export growth and minimal unemployment. The peripheral economies are characterised by a massive debt overhang, a haemorrhage of wealth, income and, most important of all, of the young and educated.
The democratic deficit is more like a chasm. The distinguished Financial Times journalist, Martin Wolf, went to the heart of the matter when he pointed out two years ago that — “Within the eurozone, power is now concentrated in the hands of the governments of the creditor countries, principally in Germany, and a trio of unelected bureaucracies — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The peoples of adversely affected countries have no influence upon them. The politicians notionally accountable to them are powerless. This divorce between accountability and power strikes at the heart of democratic governance.” (The Shifts and the Shocks. What we’ve learned — and have still to learn — from the Financial Crisis)
The consequences of failure in foreign policy and in macroeconomic policy are all too painfully evident. Europe is in stasis yet calls for reform have been ignored. There is a growing realisation that, notwithstanding the achievements of the European Community, the anomalies, imbalances and inequalities that characterise the drive towards union now undermine those achievements and that legacy.
Brexit is a reasoned response to that threat.
The real worry of the European elite is that Brexit may generate contagion. They are right to be worried. Many voters in other EU countries reject what ‘Europe’ now stands for and are disenchanted by the obdurate rejection of fundamental reforms.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it is clear that a “carry on as before” response is no longer tenable. Brexit may prove the catalyst for the rebuilding of a European partnership.
Time to embrace audacity of hope
My fervent hope, in the last few days of the UK referendum campaign, is that we can unite to demonstrate the European Union is a powerful symbol of respect and tolerance.
Let the words of Jo Cox MP ring out loud as she described the need to celebrate the richness and diversity of immigrant communities in her constituency and stated ‘…that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’
She spoke the same language of peace and reconciliation as the Nobel Laureate and great European John Hume.
John Hume regularly describes the EU as ‘the greatest example in the history of the world of conflict resolution.’ It is incredible to think that, just over 70 years ago, almost 60 million people were slaughtered across the continent of Europe, yet sworn enemies together crafted institutions which respect diversity — a Council of Ministers, the European Commission, and the European Parliament which allowed people to work together in their common and substantial economic interest.
As John Hume said:
“All conflict is about difference, whether the difference is race, religion or nationality. The European visionaries decided that difference is not a threat, difference is natural. Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it.”
Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace — respect for diversity. Let us remember the true values of the EU are about a pluralist democracy, respect for the rule of law, for individual and minority rights, respect for cultural diversity, open competitive market economy, solidarity, and sustainability.
The tragic and senseless murder of Jo Cox MP has touched everyone on these islands. Her death should not paralyse us with fear but energise us all to make a difference and respect difference. The audacity of hope should win over the politics of fear.
The positive side of American culture
The recent massacre of 49 people with another 50 or more injured in the US by a man said by a few who knew him as someone who was full of anger about everything is in complete contrast to another, who gave a life affirming speech a few weeks ago to young people in New York on June 3. Michelle Obama is in her final year as US First Lady and her time ends when her husband President Obama leaves office in January 2017 after two terms.
Her speech was at graduation day at CCNY (City College of New York) and to see her in full flow is to see the real Michelle Obama and the issues she feels strongly about. It showed in her face, voice and emotions.
She congratulates students of more than 100 nationalities speaking more than 100 languages on their graduation from CCNY. She congratulates those who attended college in difficult circumstances and who moved forward through the pain of these difficulties to achieve their goals. She said they had experienced the tough side of life — but it gives them that muscle of resilience.
Her speech is 23 minutes and can be seen on YouTube. It is relevant to Irish people with hopes of pursuing a college or university education in also difficult circumstances.
She spoke of her father’s determination to pay the cheque when her college registration fees were due and how proud he was to make that payment.
She said she lived in the White House built by slaves and how proud she was to see her two beautiful daughters waving goodbye — as they went to school — to their father, President of the United States, son of a man from Kenya who went to America [in the 1960s] to receive an education. She also said she knew others had a more difficult time in life than what she or her family experienced.
The massacre shows the down side of America, but its good side is shown by Michelle Obama — the first African-American to be First Lady of the United States of America.
We must expand abortion debate
In Alison O’ Connor’s article (Irish Examiner, June 17), she begins by saying politicians have been ultimate failures over decades when it came to discussing the issue of abortion.
How could a system be a failure when we, as a country, have always been up there in the world stage when it comes to maternity care in this country?
She also said Enda Kenny is staunchly anti-abortion and can’t understand that concept when in fact it was he who opened the door to abortion under the false premise to women’s mental health, when in fact the majority of psychiatrists said that abortion is not a solution to suicide ideation.
And then she brings up fatal foetal abnormalities, for which no medical term exists. In fact, it’s called life limiting condition, where no doctor can predict the end of life. When you call for abortion in such circumstances, you are in effect discriminating against a certain human being.
But what she is saying, which is quite disturbing, is that the rights of the unborn shouldn’t exist at all. She says Irish opinion has moved on and that there is a groundswell of support for liberalising the laws on abortion.
I totally agree! It’s because of the whole one-sided debate on the issue in the mainstream media. All we are looking for in the media and press is a fair and balanced debate on the issue.
Counting costs of the Tiger years
The ongoing commentary on current issues, like much of the commentary since the collapse and bailout in 2010, lacks any perspective.
We have powerful politicians going unchallenged when they are pontificating away on problems that resulted from decisions which they themselves backed when they held power in the celtic tiger period.
We have editorial writers equally pontificating away on “the Irish Water shambles”, “looming increases in standing charges for bin collections” and similar problems as if they were merely current issues.
All of these issues are the result of decisions made during the euphoria of the Celtic Tiger years and the collapse that happened in 2010.
Media, academia and general commentary in the Celtic Tiger era failed to challenge these decisions and failed to warn the rest of us of the possible dire consequences of these decisions.
The “shambles” is not the individual water or bin charges but the total collapse of the system from which we are, hopefully, only just emerging.