Euro referendum

It seems that I have created a bit of a stir with my comments yesterday on the European Union. Blog Irish picked up on my post and noted:

Gavin’s line is a little too close to the Shinners’ for out taste, but it is the witless enforcement of “consensus” masking real problems that gives the Adamses and Le Pens their entree.

There are diverse ideas floating around in the Irish blogosphere. Please don’t anyone tell Andrew Sullivan.

Interesting that my line appears close to that of Sinn Fein and the Greens while at the same time sounding pointedly Tory. Hm. I am inclined to agree on the consensus issue, it is being enforced, debate is being stifled and the majority of parliaments in the EU dont put important European issues to the people, they just put the treaties through regardless.

Dick O’Brien then notes:

As to how he can say that the EU is undemocratic, I’m not sure. If anything it’s too democratic, given the painfully slow pace that things move at. The Nice Treaty is a separate issue from Sweden and the Euro and the Irish double referendum was a bizarre, but not undemocratic exercise. If Irish people didn’t really want Nice they would have voted No the second time.

Its true it was a shambles. Used to an electorate that usually voted for anything EU related served up to them, the Government didn’t bother explaining much about Nice. Ironically, the debate that should have happened before the referendum, took place afterwards. Holding more than one referendum on an issue isn’t unprecedented. We seem addicted to having referendums on abortion and on two occasions, 1959 and 1968 Fianna Fail tried to abolish proportional representation. In this light, the Nice Treaty wasn’t much of a travesty.

I had a letter in the Irish Times covering this very topic – the spin from the Irish media was that us xenophobic Irish had made a horrible mistake and we better but things right.

The EU I would strain to call a democracy, simply because of the nature of the hierarchy of power in Brussels. For Nice, a referendum was only held in Ireland due to our consitution, and I am certain were it nor for that the government would have decided for us with no debate whatsoever. No other country in Europe voted on it.

If the EU was democratic would it not either accept the decision of the Irish people in the first instance, or at least adopt the Treaty to satisfy concerns? The reaction of Prodi to the Swede result almost equates to his reaction to Nice – countries who vote no will be penalised – ‘you can’t be half in and half out’ noted Prodi yesterday.

It is really very simple to me, if a referendum is held and the people decide, their decision should be respected. If politicians in Fianna Fail or the PDs had any balls, they would have accepted the decision, rather than a week later saying that the same vote would take place the following year, with the text unchanged.

Dick argues that if we didnt want it we would have voted no the second time. But did he not see the campaign mounted, using large sums of taxpayers money, to shame and bully Irish people to vote yes. And it was that blatant, to me at least. Brussels could not have been clearer – vote no and pay the consequences for dissent. That is not democracy.

With regard to precedents, I dont believe it is fair to compare referenda on abortion – up to a decade apart, each time using different language, to a referendum put to the people, rejected, and then put again unchanged a year later. Entirely different.

I am not a Sinn Feiner, or Green party sympathiser, I have no serious leanings left or right – I do have a thing about respecting democracy. Something the unelected officials in the EU seem not to comprehend.

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