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I LISTENED to the Taoiseach’s speech in the Dáil on Wednesday as he addressed the response of his political counterparts in other European capitals to the Irish people’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty.
They would be “understanding” and give us “time” as the mainstream political parties sought to understand what had happened, and the outcome of the peoples’ decision could be “addressed”.
Then I heard what I could scarcely believe. It was along the lines that, as compared with such political friends, there were other political parties and forces in Europe who actually welcomed the Irish decision — and foremost among those whom he mentioned was the party of the French extremist Jean-Marie le Pen. Who in Ireland could not but feel absolute outrage at what appeared to be the underlying insinuation? Individuals of goodwill and insight voted on both sides of the Lisbon Treaty’s amendment to our constitution for reasons that seemed appropriate to them. That is what democracy is about. Having lost the referendum, to continue to castigate those who voted — decisively — to reject the treaty shows a contempt for democracy in action — which is being denied to the citizens of other countries whose governments have arrogated to themselves the right to determine how Europe should develop. To infer, albeit by insinuation, that the majority of Irish citizens, who voted no are such as to give comfort to the party of le Pen and its ilk is simply unacceptable. It is a monstrous red herring and unworthy of a man whom I regard as a democrat. Ireland’s demonstrable hospitality to our fellow Europeans from accession countries, nails this insinuation. We have nothing in common with le Pen or his ilk.
Have the political establishment learned nothing at all from the outcome of this referendum — not even a little humility?
Is it really suggested that, in having the temerity to vote differently to the way that we were ‘supposed to vote’ (a freedom denied to individual members of these parties and who could not, therefore, act as true ‘public representatives’) that we are closet empathisers of Jean-Marie le Pen? Do they not even now understand that the vision of the majority of the people regarding how Europe should develop may be different from theirs? It is a vision based on community and on a non-militaristic model of grassroots democracy: please don’t mention ‘peacekeeping’ — you don’t really need to enjoin countries to increase their military budget to fulfil this vital role, least of all at a time when social services in Europe, including Ireland, are under serious recessionary-related pressures.
The mainstream political parties are simply out of touch with ordinary people — and not only on how Europe should develop.
Prof RP Kinsella
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