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ONE of the sad sights of the Lisbon referendum was the picture of a triumphant activist brandishing the campaign slogan ‘No to Foreign Rule’.
Whatever happened to the country which was a proud member of the EU until just the other day?
We seem to have lost all recall of the Europe which gave us progressive social, environmental and other legislation, billions in economic support and a place to appeal to when Irish politics, law or bureaucracy failed to deliver.
In the midst of a crisis of confidence about our own political system, we have handed over to a disparate group which portrays Europe as an unintelligible bureaucracy ruled by a power-hungry elite. And how are they going to sort that? It was fascinating to hear Gerry Adams smartly reminding Brian Cowen that the Government should never have signed the Lisbon Treaty in the first place. He went on to instruct the Taoiseach to tell his European counterparts that “this treaty is dead, another is required”, as if a new treaty — acceptable to all 27 countries, not just Ireland — can somehow be magicked out of the air. Then his anti-Lisbon colleague Declan Ganley continued this instruction in new political realities.
It was “frankly ridiculous,” he wrote, to suggest that our European partners’ ratifying the treaty in their individual national parliaments had the same “moral weight” as our referendum.
So stuff them, then. This from a multi-millionaire who has just bought himself a political platform.
It gets worse. Having left the centre of Europe which we had occupied for so long, we now find our new allies are the British Tory party and Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid press, the first to congratulate “the brave Irish” for halting European integration for the foreseeable future.
Over the coming months, Taoiseach Brian Cowen will be hounded from pillar to post by a no campaign with endless demands, on the one hand, and few realistic solutions on the other.
He can hardly unpick a treaty without risking it unravel. And in fairness he cannot tell 26 other countries that the reform and integration they might want to pursue cannot go ahead simply because we don’t want to be part of it — this would surely be a dog in the manger attitude to beat all others.
He doesn’t need to rush his fences, but it may soon be time for plan B, and go to the country for a mandate to restore trust in our own and the EU’s political institutions, Lisbon included.
And, this time, maybe Mr Cowen would like to get it right.
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