Second Lisbon vote - This is not the time for protest vote

MOST of us treat September suggestions from Kilkenny and Kerry hurling and football supporters that they are terribly worried that this might not be their year with an equal degree of scepticism and amusement.

The apprehensive, poor-mouth protestations of these Gaelic games superpowers are, at this stage, all part of the predictable and engaging dramas leading up to All-Ireland finals. No one believes them and no one believes that they really believe it either. However, the weeks before the finals are enlivened as their opponents are built up with a sincerity that would do Bono proud.

How reassuring it would be if we could treat the admissions from Foreign Minister Micheál Martin and Environment Minister John Gormley that the Government faces a tough battle to get the Lisbon treaty ratified on October 2 with the same bemusement.

This week’s Irish Times poll that showed support for the treaty had declined is very worrying and should encourage the proponents of the treaty to redouble their so far low-key efforts to have it endorsed.

The poll found that 46% would vote yes, a drop of eight points since May. It found that 29% would vote no, an increase of one point. The number of don’t knows has increased by seven points to 25%.

That almost one-in-three will oppose the treaty and that one-in-four are undecided represents a very significant challenge. It also represents a failure to communicate the powerful arguments for endorsing the treaty. How much the poll reflects a vote of disapproval in the Government is unknown but there must be a proportion who wish to register their dissatisfaction with the Cowen coalition.

Launching Fine Gael’s campaign earlier this week party leader Enda Kenny put it well when he said that this was a vote for the country, not a vote against the Government. A plainer way of putting it might be: when you’re in a hole stop digging.

Though NAMA dominates public discourse today a second rejection of Lisbon has greater potential to undermine our future than even a botched NAMA.

The three issues that caused most concern among those who rejected the treaty last year — Irish neutrality, fiscal independence and a permanent Irish commissioner — have been addressed. Negotiations in Brussels and the provision of legally binding commitments by EU governments have satisfied those concerns.

At this point we would be very foolish to let our anger with this uninspiring Government distract us from the bigger picture. It is increasingly unlikely that Brian Cowen will be Taoiseach this time next year but Europe will still be one of the world’s largest trading blocks. Europe will still be where our future lies.

Sooner or later we will have a chance to pass judgment on this Government and it would be disastrous if impatience led us to make the wrong decision at the wrong time and reject Lisbon for a second time.


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