Contempt for politicians no reason to repudiate vital national interests

The state guarantee on Irish bank deposits, nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank and NAMA would all have been impossible without the ECB’s €100bn.

Their resources funded the NTMA five and 10-year bond issues. Anglo’s liquidity and deposit hiatus with Irish Life & Permanent was overcome by European support

WE are entering the home straight in the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign, with voting day tomorrow fortnight. Last time, the most effective campaigning tactic was to create months of doubt and confusion and then convert this uncertainty into a No vote result.

The constant theme was “If you don’t know — vote no”. A similar ploy is now in play. The prevailing general public mood is fear, insecurity and anxiety about jobs, standards of living and public services.

Life is a worsening struggle for virtually everybody. Money is tight. The blame game for our woes alternates between politicians, bankers and developers.

The popularity of politicians is taking a pounding. Hey presto. The No campaign catchphrase this time is “If you are annoyed — vote no”.

Voters are invited to send a message of rejection to our politicians, especially the Government, by defeating the treaty a second time. This strategy appears superficially attractive and is working.

This country requires three attributes from our politicians: strong and courageous leadership; insistence on accountability from all holders of public office and semi-states; a sense of vision as to the long-term destiny of the state in order to provide hope for a brighter future.

This latter prospect can be provided by the EU. It gives us the opportunity to participate on an international stage politically, provide markets and jobs to sustain economic growth and allow our unique culture and identity to flourish.

A second rejection of the treaty has far more profound political consequences for Ireland than the previous vote. In June 2008, a number of states still had to ratify the treaty. Despite our No vote the 26 other states have proceeded with their own national endorsement.

Recently, Germany’s Bundestag and Bundesrat adopted the text. The equivalent of the German supreme court interpreted the transfer of powers therein as not constituting a European federal state. This leaves the Czech Republic and Poland as the only other outstanding states to approve the treaty. Their respective parliaments have given assent, while their presidents have agreed to sign if Ireland votes Yes.

Our vote is set to be the final step in enacting the treaty. It is naive in the extreme to believe there will not be political repercussions for Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the EU if we reject it again. There will be rejoicing among British Eurosceptics in UKIP and the Tories. One of the supreme ironies of this campaign could be that narrow-minded nationalism, which has rejected every Euro vote, could move Ireland back into a dependency on Britain. Since 1973 we have prospered by developing relationships beyond our nearest neighbour. Maybe more nationalism will lead to less independence. The overpowering arguments favouring a Yes vote are economic. The extent of the damage of a No vote is unquantifiable. Jobs are at risk. Foreign direct investment is vital to our economic recovery.

Manufacturing industry and international export service companies produce €103bn of our national output. We have become a less attractive location for investment because of our relative 20% loss of competitiveness. The low corporation tax rate of 12.5% and the high skill levels of our labour force are key attractions. However, these are all secondary to our EU market access.

The joke about the difference between Ireland and Iceland being the letter ‘c’ and six months is outdated. The real difference between the two states is that we have full membership of the euro currency and are committed EU participants, whereas Iceland is a small, isolated island knocking on the door. We are struggling to maintain our share of foreign investment. A No result could have a significant negative impact — just ask our largest private sector employer Intel.

The credit crunch has distorted our lives. Wealth and assets have halved in value. Both government and business desperately need access to credit. Our national debt is rapidly escalating from €30bn to €75bn. If the cost of NAMA bonds is added to our sovereign debt we will owe our total annual GDP, circa €150bn. Current NTMA rounds of funding have been successful. We are paying 1.6% above other euro currency governments. If the treaty is rejected, diminished confidence could result in us having to pay a 2% premium. Even an additional 0.5% would cost €120 million on this year’s extra debt alone.

Not only will the cost of finance be a greater burden on taxpayers, access to credit may be restricted. The ECB has underwritten all the Government’s measures to tackle the banking crisis to date.

The state guarantee on Irish bank deposits, nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank and NAMA would all have been impossible without the ECB’s €100bn. Their resources funded the NTMA five and 10-year bond issues. Anglo’s liquidity and deposit hiatus with Irish Life & Permanent was overcome by European support. We cannot ignore the compelling reality of dependence on the euro currency.

Declan Ganley is back. His stated reason for re-entering the fray was because of the “huge lies” being told by the Yes side. He should have perused the Cóir No posters. One of these alleges the minimum wage could be reduced to €1.84 if Lisbon were adopted. The EU will have absolutely no role in the level of the minimum wage in each state. As stated by the Labour Court, this is set down in Irish law and is irrelevant to the treaty.

Éire go Brágh published a notice in the September edition of the Catholic monthly publication Alive. It stated: “Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU could seize elderly people’s savings and homes, and can take children off people who suffer from mild forms of alcoholism or depression ...”

This is a total falsehood.

LIBERTAS castigates the Yes campaign for “half-truths”. During the No campaign last year, we were warned a vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty would lead to legalised abortion, conscription into an EU army and a common European rate of corporation profits tax.

The Yes side repeatedly asserted these three issues weren’t part of the treaty obligations. The declaration and subsequent protocol readily agreed by EU leaders has given explicit reassurance on these points. The neutral status of six member states is fully preserved. The treaty text remains unaltered. Hence, the “half-truths” emanated from the No campaign.

Did you ever wonder about the marginalised nature of the No campaigners? Patricia McKenna, Joe Higgins, Richard Greene and Declan Ganley all have had varying associations with mainstream political parties. They became disaffected, were rejected by voters or party selection conventions.

In the event of a No outcome none of these will have to pick up the pieces of maintaining Ireland’s credibility abroad. All significant groups who bear that responsibility (eg, main political parties, ICTU, IBEC, farm organisations, etc) are advocating a Yes vote. Realism cannot be ignored.

Many aspects of the EU and enlargement are not particularly appealing or advantageous to us. Brussels bureaucracy has its faults. But it is the only show around.

Any amount of contempt for our politicians is insufficient reason to repudiate our vital national interests. A treaty rejection must prompt the phrase “Last out, turn out the lights”.


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