14 June, 2008

The Enemies of Lisbon

If you have been following me around the Internet, you may have seen something like the following before. It is my attempt to categorise the different campaigns against the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland. One of the interesting things about the referendum campaign here was how there was no unified movement against the treaty, with a variety of groups running often contradictory campaigns. This seems to have proved a surprisingly successful strategy, with the claims of the different organisations striking chords with different people.

So anyway, here they are. I am assuming that the campaigning groups actually believe the claims made about Lisbon in their literature. With the exception of the pro-business rightists, the other strands of opinion have opposed every previous EU, EC, and EEC treaty.

Nationalists: People who oppose any diminution in Irish sovereignty. At the more hardcore end, these people proposed reconstituting the EU to such an extent that it would no longer exist, while others seemed like they would be happy if at least one member of the EU Commission was permanently from Ireland.

Leftists: People who oppose Lisbon for fear that it might erode workers' rights, lead to the emergence of an EU army (possibly linked to NATO), enforce privatisation of everything, etc. These people often oppose the EU generally as a rich man's club, and many of them would prefer to replace the currently constituted EU with some kind of international socialist federation.

Catholic Conservatives: People who fear that the Lisbon Treaty will lead to the legalisation of abortion. At the wilder extremes, some of these people suggest that Lisbon might lead to an enforced China-style one child policy or that we would all be forced into homosexual marriages.

The Pro-Business Right: People who fear that the Lisbon Treaty will lead to harmonisation of corporation tax across Europe (thereby diminishing Irish competitiveness etc.) or that it will smother business in red tape bureaucracy. These fellows are an interesting novelty in Irish terms, and this is the first EU referendum campaign that has seen them. However, figures within the Progressive Democrats have made vague rumblings against EU over-regulation over the last number of years, so the emergence of ths strain should not come as a total surprise.

Weirdo Conspiracy Theorists: People who fear that the Lisbon Treaty will lead to people being forcibly barcoded as part of some creepy 12-foot Lizard New World Order project. In fairness, this campaign amounted to one TV interview with Jim Corr and a couple of crazy posters fly-posted around central Dublin.

Not obviously present in the current campaign were racist nutters urging the rejection of the treaty on anti-immigrant grounds (they had some presence in the second Nice campaign).

Some of these groups can overlap or share common ground. Pretty much any of the campaigns were able to use nationalist arguments. On the other hand, the leftist position does not easily combine with that of anyone bar the nationalists and (maybe) the weirdo conspiracy theorists.

In terms of which campaigns have had the highest profile, it looked to me like most of the posters up were of a straightforwardly nationalist bent, urging people to remember the dead heroes of Ireland's past struggles for independence and to reject foreign rule. Many of these posters were actually from the organisation Cóir, apparently a front for the anti-abortion group Youth Defence (itself apparently a front for Republican Sinn Féin, splitters from the Sinn Féin of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams). Many of them were also from the Libertas organisation of Declan Ganley. Ganley was probably the main face of the No campaign, with his organisation urging a No vote on nationalist and economic grounds, in particular opposition to tax harmonisation.

It is always hard to tell which kind of arguments had the greatest traction with voters. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a lot of people were confused by the debate on the treaty, deciding that it would be wisest to vote against it. There also seems to have been a mood of disaffection against the Irish political elite (the people who were elected in last year's general election) and also against the European Union, characterised as a remote, faceless, and undemocratic institution. In contrast, it was never that clear the treaty had anything good in it that people should positively vote for; the Yes vote seemed primarily to be more based on encouraging a vague yes yes oh yes to Europe.


Big Boss said...

Where did you read that Youth Defence are an RSF front? I always thought they were associated with young Fine Gael (like the SPUCers I new in college).

Big Boss said...

Also, wouldn't RSF claim that the provos are an offshoot of them?

ian said...

Sinn Féin in the early 1970s split into "Provisional" Sinn Féin and "Official" Sinn Féin, with the later ultimately turning into the Workers Party, Democratic Left, and a bit of the Labour Party.

"Provisional" Sinn Féin gradually became just Sinn Féin. In the 1980s, however, a group of people from within the party (many of them its former leaders), split from it and formed a new party, which they named Republican Sinn Féin. The RSF people feared that SF would seek a political accommodation with Britain, ending the armed struggle.

So no, I don't think RSF can claim that the provisional split from them.

On Youth Defence being a front for RSF - it's well known, which is code for someone said it to me once. Some of the people in Youth Defence have Irish-y names - no smoke without fire.

Steffino said...

hi there, i’m from germany and i’m interessted in getting some statements for your motivation to say ‘no’ (or ‘yes’) to the eu treaty.

i’m glad the irish people said ‘no’ just as we in germany didn’t have a chance to say anything..

Anonymous said...

Hello Ireland ...

... here is Italy

Thanks to the geat irish folk who said NO to this treaty.

We Europeans out of Ireland we haven't the right to vote.

We haven't any chance to say our opinion about this treaty.


European Union is slowly becoming the Soviet Union with his central KREMLIN (Bruxelles) government.

Irish people gave us a sign of Hope and Freedom.