What is it about us Irish and referenda? One minute the national discourse is rattling along as usual, and the next, there are swarms of (previously unheard of) groups popping up out of the woodwork to warn us of the hell and brimstone that will surely ensue if we vote Yes/No to the proposition at hand.
Irish politics back in the 1980s was blighted by a series of pointless, vicious and divisive referenda on the abstraction of abortion and the reality of divorce. They succeeded in raising the decibel level while lowering the quality and tone of the debate with every day that passed.
And now they’re back. From outer space. Earlier today we were treated to a ‘debate’ on Morning Ireland between Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin and Niamh O’Broinn from a group calling itself Coir (which the Minister describes a front for the extremist group styling itself ‘Youth Defense’).
Coir claimed to have put up over 5,000 posters and distributed a million leaflets calling for a No vote on Lisbon. The European Union is, apparently, going to “force abortion, euthanasia, prostitution and cocaine on the Irish people”. At least that’s how Minister Martin read the latest scare-em-up leaflet from Coir.
Who know, gay marriage may become a sacrament, if not actually compulsory if these godless Europeans get to violate our Irish ways and Irish laws with their new fangled ideas.
Not that long ago, Irish women voting for divorce were, in the memorable phrase of Alice Glenn, like turkeys voting for Christmas. Most people think that Europe has been pretty good for Ireland. And not just for the farm subsidies either.
Many European Court rulings and EU directives have dragged Ireland kicking and screaming into the modern era across a wide range of areas, from equality for women to decriminalising homosexuality, when our own courts and legislators were found wanting – or too gutless – to take on the shadowy pressure groups, including ‘Youth Defense’ or Libertas.
The latter outlines on its website the shock discovery that the EU is heavily dependent on oil imports. What’s worse, Libertas tells us that dodgy geezers like Hugo Chavez of Venezuala and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are up to no good in their incessant plots to overthrow the western world – by deciding what they do with their own oil.
Their cunning plan involves considering “proposals to stop trading oil in the US dollar in response to the currency’s slide on international markets and to sell dollar currency reserves in favour of the euro and other baskets of currencies”. Enough said! Call in the Marines! How dare sovereign states decide in what currency they want to trade oil.
Come to think of it, not long before his demise, one Saddam Hussein floated the idea that Iraq would switch from selling its oil in dollars to euros. Luckily the forces of world freedom sorted him out before his dastardly plan came to fruition.
These pop up in different guises and with different labels, and in recent decades been highly effective in imposing their own narrow view of what it means to be Irish, including who gets rights and who doesn’t.
Whatever you might say for or against the Lisbon Treaty, one thing is clear: it cements and strengthens an EU-wide commitment on climate change. As Environment Minister John Gormley put it earlier today: “Article 191.1 of the Lisbon Treaty’s Title XX contains a key provision which has a direct effect on combating climate change. It commits the EU to dealing with climate change regionally and on a worldwide basis. I believe it will also act as a legal guarantee which will ensure all member states honour their commitment to the fight against the effects of climate change.
“Critics have dismissed this Lisbon Treaty provision as tokenism but it is quite the opposite. It represents the first time the EU has put into its rule book the need to take concerted action against climate change.”
Given that Ireland alone among the 27 states in the EU gets to vote on Lisbon, this means the outcome of this referendum is far more important than our tiny size would suggest. Gormley says a No vote will “deal a crushing blow to efforts to stop the destruction of the planet”, adding that rejecting this Treaty will at the very least stall efforts to tackle climate change, it could in fact potentially derail them.
This is serious stuff. Add to that the Lisbon Treaty’s strong stance on energy policy, it’s pretty clear to anyone concerned about these issues that a Yes vote is an imperative. We’ll just have to take our chances that this doesn’t cause our island of saints and scholars to descend overnight into a hotbed of coke-taking gay marriage pro-euthanasia abortionists.
I was under the clearly mistaken impression that, having sent Dustin the turkey to (nearly) represent us in the Eurovision, modern Ireland had at last got over itself and had instead discovered and embraced the joy of irony. Guess we’ll see on June 12th.