Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ireland’s Referendum Day Is Upon Us

John Bolton was in Dublin last weekend to give a speech on transatlantic relations at the Clinton (as in William Jefferson Clinton) Institute for American Studies at University College.

Trying to search for the copy of his speech has turned up nothing. The only information, carried by The Telegraph and The Irish Times On Line, dealt with what Bolton had to say about the Irish referendum to reporters before his UCD talk.

Unfortunately,being the dilatory type, I failed to save a copy of the Irish Times report and it now has slipped behind the subscription wall in the archives so we are left with the Telegraph’s report, which doesn’t differ substantially from the Times. Bolton said:

  • the new Treaty could hurt the military alliance between Europe and the US.
  • [He] has previously warned the deal threatens Britain’s special relationship with the United States and yesterday said he would not understand the Irish giving “more powers to bureaucrats.”
  • “The only people you elect have a very limited role and I think this treaty will further enhance the power of institutions in Brussels without extending democratic authority to people.”
  • [He] warned the Treaty could “undercut” Nato, something that would be a “huge mistake”.
  • …that if the EU has its own military capability, people will think Nato is redundant and Europe “can take care of their own defence”.

There have been several allegations that those pushing for a “No” vote have ties with the US military. Here seems to be one of the sources, from Counterpunch, an Alexander Cockburn site. The article, written by Harry Browne, talks about an organization called Libertas, when he makes that claim:
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The Irish referendum is set for June 12th, and the polls suggest it could be close. In light of the EU’s semantic bob-and-weaving, it would seem the least we can do as “good Europeans” is to stand beside our French and Dutch brethren and reject what they no longer have the power to reject. After all, Paris and Amsterdam have long since replaced the local chapel as favoured weekend destinations for Ireland’s low-fare-flying bourgeoisie. If voting No is good enough for such smart and stylish continentals, surely it is good enough for us?

That’s not how most politicians here see it, of course. Not only do they want to be spared the embarrassment of another rejection, but by and large they are ideologically committed to the vision of an expanded, more “efficient” Europe represented by the Treaty, with closer cooperation on foreign policy and military matters, and a firm commitment to privatisation of public services and other neoliberal measures within and beyond European shores.

In fact, the close fit between the ideologies of Dublin and EU elites makes something of a mockery of some of the current left-wing No arguments, those that focus on the ceding of sovereignty to Brussels. Left to its own devices, any conceivable Irish government for the foreseeable future would be at least as reactionary as any EU directive might dictate. Indeed, right-wing No campaigners are marginally more plausible when they worry that further EU integration could ultimately threaten Ireland’s exceptionally corporate-friendly tax regime.

However, we should also of course think optimistically of the unforeseeable future, when Ireland and the EU in general might produce politicians and governments who might not wish to be tied down to the emphasis on competition and trade liberalisation that is spelled out in the Lisbon Treaty. Lisbon in effect codifies some of the worst aspects of today’s neoliberal orthodoxy, even as events in the real world discredit it.

Oddly enough, the most visible wing of the No campaign thus far has consisted of a couple of leading Irish capitalists, advancing right-wing arguments against the Treaty that are rather different from the “Europe will force abortion in Ireland” line of a few conservative fruitcakes in previous referenda. A previously non-existent organisation, Libertas, set up by one millionaire with strong US military ties, Declan Ganley, and supported by another, Ulick McEvaddy, has plastered the country with billboards opposing the Treaty, and has employed one of Ireland’s most politically connected PR agencies to ensure Libertas is the first name on every lazy journalist’s lips when it comes to reporting the No side.

These Libertas guys are Euro-sceptics in the British Tory mold, not exactly Ireland’s usual cup of tea, and their connections to US intelligence circles have raised eyebrows among the few people who pay attention to such things. Their ambition, it seems, is to win this referendum as a first step toward a pan-European network of right-wing ‘libertarians’ who oppose the alleged regulatory monstrosity that is the EU. Coincidentally, McAvaddy has had one or two business scrapes with said monster.

Their ideas have some popular traction because the EU is indeed a bit of a beast. The term “democratic deficit” has floated around for the last few years as a nice way of saying that Europe is ruled by unelected commissioners who govern by fiat, their directives having the status of law in all the member states. With the EU expanding to 27 countries, under Lisbon each state will not even have one of its own as a commissioner for five out of every 15 years. (In Ireland’s case this will be a blessing, since historically governments here have sent to Brussels a few ex-politicians who are too nakedly neoliberal for even our domestic political scene, the current “internal market and services” commissioner Charlie McCreevy being a case in point.)

Here is some information on the vote from Libertas’ front page:

Libertas Chairman Declan Ganley has appealed to Irish people to turn out to vote and reject the Lisbon Treaty tomorrow, saying that a “No” vote would “send our leaders back to the drawing board”.

Speaking from the Libertas Campaign Bus, en route to Galway where he will cast his ballot tomorrow morning, Mr. Ganley said:

“This has been a long and a hard campaign, and tomorrow Irish people have to make a choice. Do they really believe that this is the best deal that this country can achieve? Or do they believe the reports coming from Brussels that say we can get something better?

We need to keep our Commissioner. That was Government policy for 20 years, and it’s just as sensible now as it was before they abandoned it so casually.

The Government and their yes-men would have us believe that there is a boundary to what we can achieve. We on the other hand are optimistic that all of Europe can do better. No good reasons for a “Yes” vote have been given in this campaign. I hope, and I firmly believe, that the Irish people will vote “No” tomorrow, and that the work can immediately begin on constructing a better vision of Europe for all its 490 million citizens”.

For those who love conspiracy theories from the Left, Declan sounds like your average unreconstructed capitalist. There is a bio here, though it is somewhat dated, as you can tell from the references to President Bush:

Ganley’s association with American businessman Don De Marino has proved invaluable. A former economic adviser to the Reagan and Bush administrations, De Marino is tipped for a senior post in the new Bush administration (if it wins the White House). De Marino met Ganley in the US through a mutual associate while Ganley was working in Russia. The American later introduced Ganley to ComCast chairman Ralph Roberts.

That seems to be the essence of Ganley’s “strong military ties.”

Here is what Libertas claims to be about:

Libertas is a new European movement dedicated to campaigning for greater democratic accountability and transparency in the institutions of the EU and developing innovative policies which can benefit Europe and foster a more positive relationship between those institutions and the citizens for whom they legislate.

Here is their charter.

Here is a short list of their publications.

Take a look and make up your own mind. To all appearancews Mr. Ganley is a successful entrepreneur who is using his money to promote what he believes.

As for me, could I vote, mine would be in the "NO" column.


Morgan said...

"As for me, could I vote, mine would be in the "NO" column."

Same here.

no2liberals said...

For the love of all that is good in this world, I pray the Irish give a resounding no to the EUSSR.

randian said...

Just say no, Ireland!

Henrik R Clausen said...

Actually, they should have a 3rd option:

No way!

I'm sick of being ruled by civl servants in Brussels and wish them a healthy, resounding rejection of their crap treaty.

Then chaos will ensue. Healthy. People standing up for their causes and their countries. Will work.

Dochas said...

To my fellow Europeans have just voted no, you have got to understand what the no vote is up agaisnt, all major partys except sinn fein who usaully only get 9-10% of vote are for voting yes, all major papers are for yes except one, all tv stations are so pro yes its plain to see, if no was to win it will be a victory agaisnt the odds, so if we have failed you please forgive us.

no2liberals said...

I would like to know if there were poll watchers, and who is counting the ballots.
And please tell me Jimmy Carter isn't involved in the elections.

Henrik R Clausen said...

In Denmark, ballots are counted by representatives of the various political parties. Being caught cheating in that situation would be extremely embarrasing.

If Ireland uses the same system, the Sinn Fein representatives would be the ones to blow the whistle in case of fraud.

Any Irish with details?

BTW, it's good fun to hang out with your political opponents and count :)

Homophobic Horse said...

"Here is what Libertas claims to be about:

Libertas is a new European movement dedicated to campaigning for greater democratic accountability and transparency in the institutions of the EU and developing innovative policies which can benefit Europe and foster a more positive relationship between those institutions and the citizens for whom they legislate."

Reminds me of the Pseudo opposition parties the KGB would set up in Soviet Russia to present the facade of democracy. Dialectically speaking, it couldn't be more perfect. It would be instructive, and not at all ironic if Libertas had EU funding.

Go here to find what Libertas think of themselves.

"Acknowledge the European Union’s role in safeguarding for its citizens unprecedented peace and prosperity for half a century and its potential to continue to do so for the liberty and security of future generations;"

The EU is institutionally dishonest and now wastes £600 Billion a year. At its very best.