Asking the Irish to vote again on the Lisbon treaty is arrogant, insulting and undemocratic
Imagine if, following the election of Barack Obama by 52.9% of American voters, the Republican party, which got just 45.7% of votes, demanded another election. Imagine if the Republicans described Obama’s victory as a “triumph of ignorance” – brought about by an “unspeakable” and “ignorant” mass of people who should have been “swatted away by the forces of the establishment” – and insisted on holding a second election so that, this time, the voters could “get it right”.
There would be uproar, outrage, widespread disgust at such elite disdain for the democratic process. Well, now you know how the Irish people must feel. In June this year, 53.4% of Irish voters rejected the Lisbon treaty, against 46.6% who supported it (giving the “No” camp a “sweeping victory” similar to Obama’s). Yet now the Irish will be asked to vote again. EU officials’ behind-doors deal to force a second referendum in Ireland reveals their utter contempt for Irish voters, and for democracy itself. It is an historic sucker punch against the sovereignty of the people.
As soon as the Irish people’s ballots were counted in June, their rejection of Lisbon was treated as the “wrong” answer, as if they had been taking part in a multiple-choice maths exam and had failed to work out that 2+2=4. Now, they will be given a chance to sit the exam again, “until [they] come up with the right answer,” says George Galloway, attacking EU elitism. The notion that the Irish “got it wrong” exposes gobsmacking ignorance about democracy in the upper echelons of the EU. The very fact that a majority of Irish people said no to Lisbon made it the “right answer”, true and sovereign and final. “No” really does mean no.
The Irish were subjected to a tirade of slanderous abuse when they dared to reject officials’ carefully crafted and profound (in truth, overlong and turgid) document on the future of the EU. One Brussels official described them as “ungrateful bastards”, on the basis that Ireland has received lots of handouts from the EU and thus should be more obedient to its paymaster. Pro-EU commentators blamed “populist demagogues” for cajoling the Irish into voting no, and said the EU’s plans should not be “derailed by lies and disinformation”.
It was widely claimed that the Irish simply didn’t understand the treaty, and may have been confused by its “technocratic, near incomprehensible language” (well, they are ignorant Paddies, after all). Some claimed that the Irish mistakenly, possibly even illegitimately, had used the referendum to register disgruntlement with their own ruling parties. Margot Wallström, vice-president of the European Commission, said officials should try to “work out what the Irish people had really been voting against”. I would have thought that was obvious: they were handed the Lisbon treaty; they said no to it.
We’ve been here before. When French and Dutch voters rejected the European constitution in 2005 (and according to Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the current Lisbon treaty is the “same as the constitution”), they were sneeringly insulted by their betters in Brussels. Neil Kinnock said it was a “triumph of ignorance”. Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP, labelled the “rejectionists” as an “odd bunch of racists, xenophobes, nationalists, communists, the disappointed centre left and the generally pissed off”. He asked whether it is wise to “submit the EU Constitution to a lottery of uncoordinated national plebiscites”.
Clearly not, since the plebs might just reject it. The EU’s attempts to force the constitution/Lisbon treaty through despite its democratic rejection, and now their offer of a few addendums to the Irish people, make it come across as a corrupt, archaic oligarchy, ensconced in its palaces, looking down at the people of Europe as a strange, dumb, untrustworthy blob.
All of the Irish people I know remain passionate about the idea of Europe. Even those who rejected Lisbon think of Ireland as European, and have travelled, worked and made friends on the continent. It is not Europe that they rejected in the referendum in June, but a document produced by a cut-off and aloof European elite, those cosmopolitan poseurs who are in reality distrustful of Europe’s masses, whether it’s the thick Irish, the xenophobic French, or the mysterious Turks. The Irish were being properly European; the EU is being merely elitist.
Saturday 13 December 2008 16.00 GMT
Source: The Guardian