How the Irish Saved Civilization, Again

The Irish Times reports that the Lisbon Treaty has been defeated in a referendum held in the Republic of Ireland. The Lisbon Treaty is a new version of the proposed EU Constitution, which had previously been rejected by the voters of the France and the Netherlands. This time, the French and Dutch governments refused to allow a popular vote. In the U.K., the Labour Party had promised a referendum, but that promise was broken. Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing explained: "Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly... All the earlier [EU Constitution] proposals will be in the new text [Lisbon Treaty], but will be hidden and disguised in some way."

Treaty proponents lamented that Ireland, with only 1% of the EU population, could derail a 27-nation treaty. But the very fact that only 1% of the EU's population was allowed to vote on a treaty which would massively reduce national sovereignty and democratic accountability was itself an illustration of the enormous "democratic deficit" of the EU in general, and the Lisbon Treaty in particular. According to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Lisbon Treaty would be defeated in every EU nation if referenda were allowed.

The referendum debate in Ireland involved some Irish-specific issues, such as the Treaty's impact on farmers, its threat to Ireland's official foreign policy of neutrality, and the danger that Ireland might be forced to raise its low corporate income tax rate of 12.5% (which almost everyone agrees has been an essential part of the economic success of the Celtic Tiger). But the broader opposition seemed to stem from the sheer incomprehensibility of the Treaty. Even Taoiseich (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen admitted that he had not read the Treaty, which is over 400 pages long and deliberately written to be obscure. Treaty proponents included both of the two largest political parties (Fianna Fail and Fine Gael), and they appealed to the Irish people's strong support of trade with Europe, and to Ireland's optimistically internationalist orientation.

A group named Libertas was formed to lead the opposition, and Libertas agreed with the principles of international trade and Ireland's integration into Europe. But Libertas was successful at convincing Irish voters that the Treaty was perilous threat to the democratic sovereignty which is the glory of European civilization, and for which the Irish had struggled for so many centuries to win for themselves.

More coverage at the excellent British site EU Referendum (which astute readers may remember for its outstanding work in exposing media complicity in cooperating with Hezbollah to create staged pictures of the alleged Israeli atrocities at Qana, Lebanon).