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The Irish Have Their Say, Perhaps Save Themselves in the Process — 12 Comments

  1. What is far more worrying is the reaction of the various heads in the EU.

    Under EU law, the Treaty is now dead, as it requires the consent of all countries. So why are they continuing the ratification process in the remaining countries?

    There has also been a suggestion that because the Irish “are an ungrateful lot” we should be left out of the new advanced Europe?

    I have also heard one of the top bods say that a law should be drafted forcing the Irish to accept.

    I can feel another post coming on in the next few days!!

  2. “any future right of the Irish people to vote on any future EU treaties or issues thereof”. That’s just not right. It’s clearly limited to changing the voting procedure on issues in the European Council (interaction between heads of government or ministers thereof) from unanimity to qualified majority voting (QMV). Not ‘any further treaty’.

    26 out of the 27 countries already ratify their treaties by parliament, not referendum, anyway.

  3. 26 out of the 27 countries already ratify their treaties by parliament, not referendum, anyway

    Why? Is it possibly because they are scared that the treaties would be voted down?

  4. or possibly because 26 countries worked out that referenda for 400-page treaties are too difficult to campaign on meaningfully?

    possibly because representative democracy has a meaning outside the world of cynical bloggers?

    all I was saying is that the provision in the amendment is more minor than IR and others are making it out to be (coincidentally the No campaign didn’t seem to make a big deal out of it?) and in the context of other countries’ existing attitudes to treaty ratification – for right or wrong – it would hardly be such a major step to leave decisions up to elected governments.

  5. gabbagabbahey, (welcome!)

    From the booklet:

    Under the proposed amendment to the Constitution of Ireland the approval of the Dáil and Seanad will be required for Ireland to agree to such proposed changes. Such changes would not require a referendum in Ireland.

    I’m not going to pretend to be any sort of expert on Irish politics and I’m going to go over the booklet and the treaty itself once more but do you, as a student of politics, honestly believe that the Irish government would not have taken full advantage of this if the the vote had gone the other way? As a veteran of the Cold War, having dealt with politics of that era and today’s, I have a very hard time believing that such a government would not do their absolute best to to manipulate this amendment to their advantage.

    Perhaps it’s our ages (meaning folks like myself and Grandad) that make us sound a bit cynical in our writings but that’s just many years of experience coming through. You should never give your elected governments too much leeway on the types of decisions they can make without first requiring the approval of the people those decisions will effect.

  6. hi kirk, and thanks for the welcome.

    I may sound naive in my support for such an amendment, but a) the government would have to exploit it unanimously with every other government in Europe, b) it would have to answer to the electorate back home – incidentally as Lisbon would have made European Council meetings public, a clear democratic improvement – and c) direct approval of the people is a pretty unwieldy process.

  7. gabbagabbahey,

    I do have to agree that direct approval by the people can indeed be a tricky thing and there has to be a balance between decisions that can solely be made by a given government and decisions that need to go to the people first. Full disclosure to the people by a government on any issues involving a given country also has to happen in order for things to run as smoothly as possible.

    My overall take on this was that the “No” happened due to the equation being unbalanced in such a way that made the Irish electorate balk at voting it into play. And the Irish people are not the only one’s to waggle their collective eyebrows at the current wording of Lisbon Treaty, including a few countries that approved the Treaty already whether the people had any say or not. I’ve even read a few articles by folks here in the U.S. that questioning certain area’s of the treaty and “The Booklet” that attempted to explain what the treaty was all about. The questions brought up all varied somewhat of course, so I’ll leave that for now (I’m watching my wife’s quilt shop today and time is not without limit 😛 )

    The Lisbon Treaty is needed, I don’t disallow that but obviously, for whatever reasons, it needs some rethinking and tweaking thereof and ideally, the countries involved should find a way to make that happen without taking years to do so. The EU is essentially still in it’s infancy and because of that nothing is set in stone including the ability to adjust the treaty so it’s acceptable to all in a timely matter.

  8. Whatever you think of the result, and there are reasonable people on both sides, this incident should be included in every political science course in every university in the world.

    It’s an outstanding example of a government’s total failure to engage with its people.

  9. Bock the Robber,

    Indeed, unreasonable people always abound on either side and even unreasonable people among those who refuse to participate at all.

    Not working with the people who elected them in the first place is an invitation to disaster both for the people and their respective government, something which I’ve always felt very strongly about but then again I’m from the “old school” of thinking you know. People have right to know and all that.

    I notice there’s a bit of talk going around that the Irish may have to vote all over again. I’ll be keeping a close eye on that one you can bet on that, sir.

  10. “this incident should be included in every political science course in every university in the world” – yes, under the heading “Problems with Referendums”. I’m only half-joking!

    kirk, yes, we will very likely be having “Lisbon II” – or more accurately, a Referendum on the 29th Amendment to the Constitution Bill (Lisbon was #28). Renegotiation of the treaty is a political non-starter in Europe, so they’ll probably tack on a few declarations clarifying Ireland’s control over military, tax and abortion issues + possibly some ex-treaty deal on Commissioners. Then we’ll vote on that, with the main political parties pointing out that another defeat could end up with Irish exclusion from the main body of the EU.

    It’s really a headache, because although that’s likely to reassure people enough to vote Yes, except perhaps for the Commissioner issue it won’t materially change anything in the No side’s favour. Largely making the first referendum pointless?

    I take on board your points about ‘full disclosure’ to the electorate, but clarification of points the Yes side were uniformly content with and the No side created (or at least, accentuated) fear and uncertainty about, makes no political difference to the terms of the Treaty. For what, then, a vote?

  11. Hey,


    Glad you’re back. Thought you just got disgusted with me and left. 😛

    I fully understand where you’re coming from and I’d really like to see the Ireland ratify the treaty since overall, the treaty will be a good thing as far as further organizing and stabilizing the EU acknowledging the fact that any treaty or constitution or the like has some good holes in it that always need to be patched. But I also think that it’s very important that the majority of the Irish people are comfortable that what they’re voting for is actually a good thing. 53% of those that voted were not comfortable for whatever reason.

    So now a second round of voting looks imminent and if the majority of the majority of the electorate votes Yes this time does that make the 1st referendum pointless? Depends on how you look at it. If all it does is give the Irish government a solid and substantial wake up then no…the 1st referendum was not pointless at all.

    So they tack on a few declarations do they? As long as the declarations are satisfactory to the Irish people and they solve the problems the dissenters initially perceived during the first referendum and the declarations are good ones, real and binding…then what harm done?

  12. no, I didn’t leave in disgust! In fact, I was quite impressed with your last reply to me and couldn’t find a way to comment back, at least not succinctly. I’m kinda having the same problem now… 🙂

    I think I’ll have to agree with you that a repeat referendum that merely reassures people of what, ideally, they should have felt assured of all along, is not necessarily a bad thing. I still feel angry about it, though.

    I would point out that, at least from what I’ve read in the papers, this proposed Lisbon II will not change the issue at the heart of this blog post. I never heard it come up in the campaign, and although Sinn Fein had ‘removal of the self-amending clauses’ on their (ignored) list of renegotiation demands post-referendum, it was along with I think about 17 other hopelessly – in the climate of real European politics – unrealistic issues.