Ireland says NO — 45 Comments

  1. You should run for office Grandad. “The government.” I mean, what goes wrong. How do elected governments become a different entity? As if they were from Mars. Would that happen to you? It’s like, we all think everybody else is a shit driver. But not me.

  2. That’s some fine grandstanding. Two things, however.

    Firstly, we were told exactly what it was about – detangling the bureacratic structures and increasing transparency and efficiency – and there was ample further information for anyone who wanted to find it.

    Secondly, I do indeed resent being treated like a fool. That’s why I didn’t like the posters and stickers and blog posts insisting that I couldn’t possibly understand the issues for myself, and I should just vote no rather than worry my pretty head.

    (Bonus third point: A guy came over to my blog and tried to tell me that Lisbon, if ratified, could then be amended without any say from us. I quoted a paragraph from Article 48 (which he had pointed to) that proved him wrong. He then went back on himself and said that no, it wasn’t Article 48 that would cause problems, it was the 28th amendment to our constitution. I linked him to the full text of said amendment, as well as the full text of Crotty v. An Taoiseach, and asked him to quote me something that would back up his argument. He didn’t reply. That’s the No campaign in microcosm – a lot of big talk designed to disorient and scare the electorate, but a big fat nothing when it came to backing up arguments.)

  3. Can we have a noisey one now please? I refer to the excellent success of South Korea in getting 6 ministers to resign. That’d be sweet.

  4. I am biased of course, but I wonder if Robert Heinlein didn’t have a good idea. In his novels you were not eligible for political office unless you were a veteran. While I certainly met my share of idiots while in uniform, most who served would be a drastic improvement on the current lot of politicos. It would not be a perfect system, but I think it would be an improvement.

  5. TT – The powers that be here are completely out of touch with the people ‘on the ground’. This is evident from today’s result. But it is also evident from too many other examples, from the Taoiseach granting himself a pay rise to exceed Bush’s [in a time of recession], to people dying on hospital trolleys, while our minister for health does her damnedest to privatise the whole system. Don’t start me!!

    Emirdino – I beg to differ. We were told in rather vague terms that it was to do with greater efficiency, from which I gathered [as did a hell of a lot of other people] that we would lose representation in Europe. The exact process and implications were not spelled out clearly. Or if they were, I [and most other people, apparently] didn’t see it.

    I’m afraid I have to disagree about information being available. I did a lot of research over the past weeks, and there was a lot of information. A lot of it was plain nonsense and the rest seemed to be contradictory.

    On a personal note, I’m not happy at the No vote. I would have preferred to have voted Yes [so I am definitely not gloating], but I simply didn’t know what exactly I was voting for. I am listening to the analysis on the radio at the moment, and both sides of the fence are saying the same thing – it was not explained clearly enough.

    Thrify – I the likelihood of heads rolling are about as likely as a second moon appearing in the sky tonight!!

  6. Jim C – I think a better idea would be to have politicians who are nonsalaried, but who receive productivity bonuses based on their achievements??

  7. this vote today was a 2 finger salute not to the eu, but to the irish goverment and irish politics in general and for one im delighted.
    A turnout of over 56% shows the general feeling of discontent within Ireland.

    Our blabering leader was lost for words to explain the “no vote” stating that “we have no grounds to negoicate terms as they agreed to all our terms already?”
    I think if he stands back and had a look at the bigger picture it is blindingly obvious that today was a vote of no confidence in our political leaders.

  8. Johnie – It certainly was a reflection on the competency of our politicians. There is going to be great fun now in Brussels as Cowan tries to explain his way out of this one 😉

  9. Excellent post Grandad, I’ve been expressing similar sentiments on my blog but not as articulately. What you say about wanting to vote yes but not feeling well-informed enough to do so is very much at the heart of the matter.
    I suspect part of this is an anti-Bertie backlash, he has left the irish public who were naive enough to continue voting him in with a sour taste in their mouths as they’ve realised too late what they did last year and have taken it out on Biffo and the boys.

  10. Thanks, Andrew! You are more than likely right about Bertie. It would have been interesting if Cowan and FF had made some statement prior to the election distancing themselves from Bertie and his carry on [and sacking Harney in the process!]. We have been taken for a ride for too long and I think that was reflected in the vote.

    One thing that has come out of this is that the EU is in total chaos now! I’m listening to the radio, and they are all going ballistic over there…..

  11. Well I, as a normal, ordinary, run-of-the-mill kind of gal, am quite happy to stand up and say that I didn’t bloody understand it. And I certainly wouldn’t have been swayed by a picture of some ugly bloke on a placard. But then I’m alien, so I didn’t vote. I cover my green skin with foundation doncherknow.

  12. If people really want to give the government (i.e. FF) a two-fingered salute, would they mind doing so in a general election please?

    I am tired of people using interim elections/votes (i.e. referenda, locals, Europeans, Presidentials) to show their displeasure with the government yet witlessly then do not kick them out of power at the next chance they get.

    I mean, it has been over two decades since there was a popularly elected change of the main government party in this country (FG under Bruton were not voted in by the people)! In other countries, governments need the army on the streets to stay in power that long!

    Anyone who voted “no” for any reason other than becase they, on balance, disagreed with the proposal in question should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, instead of being smug about it. They have screwed with a major, major attempt to streamline the bloated EU bureaucracy – one that has taken years of complex negotiations – just to make a point that is utterly petty and meaningless if they then vote FF back into government in a few years time.

    Sorry for the rant, Grandad, but I feel strongly about this point.

  13. Oooh, strong feelings on this one!
    I’d been wavering between voting yes and no for quite a while. I’d been hearing and reading arguments for both sides. In some cases these arguments contradicted each other meaning I’d no idea which one was on the side of truth. In essence, there was no clear indication from the Government what the treaty really entailed. To quote Grandad,” we wanted to know what the treaty was about and they couldn’t tell us”. In the end I decided not to vote. This is something I don’t feel right about when I think of the sheer hard work that previous generations of mna na hEireann (that’s “women of Ireland”, for English Mum,tt, and JimC) have put in to get the right to vote. But, I just wasn’t sure what I might be voting for or against.

  14. I didn’t have a dog in this fight but I looked into it to see what you all were going on about. I found the document to be so confusing and contradictory that I was suspicious as what it was to accomplish. You see I always thought the whole idea of the EU was for europe to become a single country like the US. Our constitution lays out very clearly what powers the federal government has. It appeared to me that the Lisbon treaty would have made the federal powers of the EU very vague and changeable. It didn’t seem like a good thing to me.

  15. EM – we we’re singling you out by denying you a vote on this one – we just wanted you to feel like you were at home (where you would have had the same amount of votes on Lisbon)

    I have to agree with a lot of what Longman Oz says on this. If people don’t know who or what they are voting for/against then they shouldn’t vote (or at least go an spoil your vote and be counted).

    I don’t like party politics. It doesn’t give us public representatives – it gives us [Insert Political Party here] TD’s. They don’t vote for the people that voted for them – they vote for what their party tell them.

    The ballot papers have evolved over the years to make things easier for the electorate to vote 1,2,3 etc. in order of preference (colour photos etc.). One thing that should change is that he name of the political party should be removed from the paper.

    We can’t impose an exam to see if people have done enough homework to cast an informed vote but at least this way, if they want to vote for candidates from a certain party, they can at least try and learn their names before they vote for them.

  16. I’m inclined to agree with Longman Oz. This was not the place to give the government two fingers. The issue was a huge one, far more important than local political grievances, and it’s a pity if people used it to express anger at the government.

    However, I think the government made a complete shit of this proposal, due to arrogance and an assumption that the Irish electorate are sheep.

    I was inclined to vote No but found myself on the Yes side eventually, after reading the treaty from end to end, and I think it was a mistake to reject it. Nevertheless, I respect the decision.

    What I can’t respect are the muppets on both sides who tried to frighten us into voting Yes or No.

  17. I don’t think that it was an intentional two fingers at the government per se. The government failed miserably in its duty, and it reaped the whirlwind. I gave my reasons before as to why I was voting No. Maybe some of them were wrong, or misguided; I don’t know. The fact is that I did vote no, and I don’t regret it. I do regret not being able to vote yes, because I believe in Europe. I could have abstained, but I felt the treaty was wrong. I felt the whole process was wrong.

    70% of the people of Europe wanted the right to vote on this issue. The politicians went to great pains to tell us how all the countries had signed up to this, but what do the people of Europe have to say? Had we the right to impose something on them that they had no say on?

    One thing that has come out of the debates tonight is that there are many reasons why people voted no. Some of them were right, and some were wrong. Maybe I was wrong? I don’t know. One way or another, I blame the powers in Europe and my own government for failing to set out in clear and concise terms exactly what we were supposed to be voting for.

  18. Take Ireland as an analogy,We’ve got 26 counties, Europe has 27 nations…. so it’s not a bad one.
    We’re the equivalent of Leitrim deciding against, what the rest of the country have agreed upon, and then expecting the rest of the country to give a shit.
    I saw a No poster tonight, (the one with the monkeys) it said

    The new EU:
    Won’t see you
    Won’t hear you
    Won’t listen to you

    Now, after we’ve voted No…….. I actually believe they may be right!
    They won’t

  19. To be clear, I am not having a go at anyone who looked into this to a decent degree over the past few weeks and decided to vote against the amendment. That is the reasonably-reached decision of this person on the subject and I respect it.

    It is just that I am soooo tired of people voting against a FF-led government outside of general elections and then putting them back in for another 4-5 years. While that can still be a bit of craic when it is a domestic election such as the locals, this one had implications for many other people, not just ourselves, so I would rather people had voted for or against the treaty and not for or against anything else.

    Anyway, I am moving to Dun Laoghaire to set up a separatist party called the Posh People’s Liberation Front. Once we break way, I make you two promises. Firstly, we will kick serious butt in the Eurovisions – we simply need to throw some of our filthy lucre at the problem. Secondly, so long as they can kick a ball straight, citizens of this fledgling Europhile republic shall be a shoo-in to our national football team-to-be.

    Paradise with a ferry port. Life does not get much better than that.

  20. Longman Oz,

    Greetings from Killiney Avenue (albeit the poor end) in Free Dun Laoghaire.

    There is a strange tradition of voting here. In the referendums, Dun Laoghaire has generally bucked the national trend: I think it was the only constituency to support the right to have one’s marriage dissolved in the referendum of June 1986. Yet in General Elections there is no discernible difference from national voting patterns.

    I think the Catholic Right still remains strong in rural areas. The spokesman for the main right wing group said they had delivered one million leaflets. There is a perception on their part of Europe as being filled with secular liberal anti-Catholic values and I think they will encourage a vote against anything that furthers the European enterprise. On Thursday, that right wing was on the same side as the radical Left, who work very hard in urban areas, not just Sinn Fein, but Joe Higgins’ Socialist Party and Boyd Barrett’s People Before Profit group, who are opposed to the perceived dilution of neutrality and centralisation of powers. The Right and the Left were supplemented by centre ground voters who were simply uncertain as to whether they were happy about the whole process.

  21. Roy – To take your analogy: If Leitrim voted No but all the other counties had been refused the right to vote, I think the rest of the country would give a shit?

  22. grandad – while I understand this is a satirical post, your references to the ‘People’ as some kind of indivisible, infallible nationalistic entity I find quite unsettling. It’s a lot easier to project your own arguments out above everyone else’s when you speak of some mysterious ‘People’. (Read: all of Russian history since the early 19th century).

    Personally, I don’t consider the Lisbon result as indicative of the populace’s “intelligence and maturity”. Really, quite the opposite. I’m not someone to deny the principles of democracy, but they must be based on informed debate, awareness of the issues and some sort of workable outcome to a Yes or No vote (which the Lisbon Treaty pretty much lacked, I’ll admit).

    I thought the Referendum Commission leaflet did a pretty good job of explaining the treaty; honestly, it seems like most voters closed their ears (and eyes) to any sort of factual summary of the treaty.

    Greetings from Free Dun Laoghaire!

  23. I see there’s already talk of forcing Ireland to have a second referendum to get the ‘right’ result. Is this scam now to become the political norm? Or will Irish voters make it crystal clear they won’t stomach it?

  24. Anyone who voted “no” for any reason other than becase they, on balance, disagreed with the proposal in question should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, instead of being smug about it

    Agreed 100%.

    You should only have voted no if you did not agree with the terms of the Treaty. If you did not understand it, don’t vote, because ultimately, for what you know either ratifying or rejecting it could be equally bad; as you don’t KNOW.

  25. Gabbagabbahey – Semi-satirical! What’s wrong with ‘People’? It’s easier to type that ‘The Electorate’. My refernce to ‘intelligence and maturity’ was in the context that the politicians considered it sufficient to tell us to vote Yes and that their word was enough. They assumed from the outset that we were sheep, and would all follow them, but we didn’t.

    While I wrote this early yesterday afternoon, before the official results were announced [and it was pretty obvious what the outcome would be], my sentiments have been echoed time and time again within the various debates that have been raging since. We were not given a coherent explanation. The primary reason for the defeat is now generally accepted to be the lack of information and general confusion surrounding the whole business.

    Nick – You can’t be serious! I thought they had ruled that out?

    Roosta – That is a debatable point. This is not a simple issue like buying a car or a house. Once the vote has been cast, it is irreversible. I think there was a fear that abstinence would allow a treaty to pass that may have dire consequences, so people voted no, not so much to reject the treaty, as to prevent themselves being cornered into situation where it was too late for them to do anything about it? I don’t know. I’m not a mind reader!

  26. Grandad,

    I’m worried at the language being used by some of those annoyed at the result, ‘uninformed’, ‘not comprehending’, ‘failing to understand’.

    It is the sort of logic used by the Communists in former times, the false consciousness argument. People who were properly conscientized would naturally vote the way the Communists wished so it was quite permissible for the Communists to take their decisions for them because in doing so they were acting in people’s own best interests.

    Analysis in today’s FT is good.

  27. Ian- except, in this case, it’s the voters who THEMSELVES claim they ‘don’t understand’ or ‘comprehend’ the Treaty, and yet they still voted!

    I think Roosta has a good point, that abstention should follow not knowing what the treaty is about, or at least spoiling your vote; interestingly, there were very low levels of spoilt votes – I think the No campaign succeeded in convincing voters that they should vote against something they don’t understand. Is that perhaps false consciousness?

    grandad – people refused to accept a coherent explanation (apparently, following incoherent ones instead. Look at the commissioner issue, or abortion, or defence, or the combined opposition of hard left and hard right…). What about the Referendum Commission booklet, I ask?

    I still think – and this is admittedly idealistic – that it’s irrational not to trust the support for the treaty by 90-95% of your elected representatives. If there’s that big a gap between the ‘Electorate’ and the political classes, then please, do as Longman suggests, and sort it out at the next general election. Sinn Fein and Coir ruling coalition anyone? Or will Libertas get in? (See, that’s satire)

  28. Brianf — “You see I always thought the whole idea of the EU was for europe to become a single country like the US. Our constitution lays out very clearly what powers the federal government has.”

    That’s how the constitution was suppose to work and actually did for a few decades. Then as goverments do, the federal goverment started taking more and more power. Ultimately resulting the absurd “penumbra” arguement of the supreme court.

    Recently the state goverments have been doing the same thing to local goverments. The politicos are so certain that they know what is best for us and the rest of us have no idea what we are doing.

    to Longman Oz — I don’t know about Ireland, but here in the USA you are almost always choosing between the lesser of two evils. Our system of political parties ensures that there are no decetn canidates to vote for. Very rarely someone decent slips through the process and when this does happen the parties take steps to make sure it does not happen again.

  29. First time I’ve ever been here, great post! I shall plagurise it in many arguments that I am going to have over the weekend with people(mostly with bored drunks).

    The one thing that disappoints me hugely was that, even after No had won, the Yes campaign were just saying “you’re all wrong” instead of some sort of apology for their terrible job or even acknowledging that people voted no because they failed to understand the treaty. When Linehan appeared on television throughout the coverage yesterday, he kept reminding me why so many people voted No.

  30. Gabbagabbahey – “What about the Referendum Commission booklet, I ask?” – I really don’t know. Why don’t you ask the other 862,414?

    With regard to trusting our elected politicians – quite frankly, I don’t. They have given me very little reason to trust them over the past years. I reflected that when I voted in the last General Election. As a typical example of the duplicity of the elected, I would suggest the Greens as an example – they were elected to a large part on their anti-Fianna Fáil stance, yet as soon as they were given a chance of power, they were in like a greased rat. As Jim says, we have the choice of the lesser of several evils here, and until such time as there is a change in Irish politics of gargantuan proportions, I doubt I will trust them.

    B’dum B’dum – Welcome!! One of the great things about Irish politicians is their dogged failure to ever admit that they are wrong. It is always the fault of someone else.

  31. First of all I want to congratulate the people of Ireland on the simple fact that they voted at all and with relatively few abstains no less. Despite what some may think, the worst thing you can do is not vote. The consequences of a high rate of not voting at all has already been well expressed here so I won’t rehash.

    The general public as the whole (meaning each individual) are not stupid. Although the individual’s ability to comprehend certain issues differs with the individual themselves, does not mean they are incapable of voting as they see fit based on at least how they feel about something. Instinct and intuition are badly underrated. I have found over time that if an issue such as the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is put forth before the electorate and the electorate finds the issue unclear as to what it’s exactly about and the outcome if passed in regards to the future of their country and their own as well, then their government and any other entities involved have failed to properly present it’s case (for whatever reason) and that is not acceptable.

    20 years from now it may actually be possible to accomplish some thorough research about such issues from the comforts of your own home but not today despite the advancements in home technology and unfortunately depending on the media and certain respective governments to keep you informed or for clear explanations as to all the “why’s and wherefores” is next to useless.

    Simply put, if an issue of this kind of importance isn’t made clear to the electorate by the entities putting it forth, then something is greatly amiss and voting “No” on such an issue due to not being able to understand clearly what the consequences will be if the issue is passed is the correct thing to. At the very least a No vote allows the issue to be put back on the table to be reviewed, troubleshot and changed accordingly. On the other side of the equation, voting either way just to screw things up for the sake of screwing things up is a good reason to resurrect the old tradition of throwing people in the stocks on the village green.

    So Kudos to the you Irish folks for standing up for yourselves and your country as you saw fit whether you voted yes or no.

  32. Kirk M – I couldn’t have put it better myself!! I think the turnout surprised everyone. They were expecting a low one, but obviously people thought it important enough to get off their backsides, whether they understood it or not!

  33. if any of the other 862,414 want to tell me what they thought of it, I’m waiting. I thought the booklet was a clear, concise and relatively unambiguous summary of a complex legal treaty. A treaty designed to modify existing institutions and, literally, nothing else.

    I think Kirk M has a very good argument, but it exactly hinges on my question – what of the attempts to accurately and simply outlay the treaty to the general public? I think it’s disingenuous to give people the right to vote no on doubt, without pressing the onus to find out about it. I’ll admit the consensus now is that it somehow was ‘not properly explained’, even if I – a politics student, admittedly – understood it pretty well without having read the actual thing. A prior understanding of European politics kinda helps.

    See? I just want No voters to understand why people were able to vote Yes, quite simply and without having to rely on some ideal, perfect government campaign. Lisbon, in fact, being one of the more minor European treaties.

    What if the people who didn’t understand it went along and spoiled their vote? There was a 2 to 1 majority in favour amongst those who did understand it, and a 10 to 1 against amongst those who didn’t (from Richard Sinnott’s article, Irish Times/MRBI pre-referendum poll). Then it would have passed with a large majority – based on the people who did understand it – and, this is the important bit, a substantial spoilt vote to indicate that a referendum on the issue was never really a good idea.

  34. This is probably not the right place to express myself on this one. I like this particular site and wouldn’t want it to turn into a political battleground. Anyway, what I want to say is this –
    – I’m tired of the Yes voters criticising the choice of the No voters
    – I’m tired of the No voters criticising the choice of the Yes voters
    – I’m tired of both the Yes and No votes criticising the choice of the abstainers.
    Whatever happened to mutual respect and appreciation for the other person’s perspective even if it doesn’t agree with our own? The thing is now done. Can we stop harping on about that has happened and focus on moving forward.
    Ok, there now, I’ve said it, and the microwave has just pinged…..

  35. Chamed – You are always welcome to express yourself. What’s more you are spot on. We have voted. The deed is done. There is feck all point in raking over the ashes.

    It’s up to the politicians now to try to work out who voted why, and to sort out the outcome.

  36. Congrats from afar to all citizens who thought about the issue and went out to vote. Boo to all those lazy people who just shrugged their shoulders and asked: What’s it all about? I’d say alcohol abuse and mental sloth are two of the most shameful things in Ireland today. I back your view that people who voted No didn’t do it to blow a raspberry at the government. Likewise FG voters who went against their party leader’s advice won’t necessarily withold votes from their favoured candidates in the 2009 locals. A referendum is supposed to isolate a single issue so people can vote on it without being distracted by party rivalries. Fringe groups may pick up a score of seats in the local elections, but the mainstream parties and assorted independents will get the votes and seats they work for too. Irish voters can judge issues as they arise you know.

  37. As one of your contributors from the States said, “I don’t have a dog in this fight”, but I feel that there is never anything wrong with “clear and concise”. Unfortunately here in the States with our myriad of issues as with the Lisbon treaty, the clear was definitely missing and when that goes so goes concise- they try to dazzle you with BS and smoke and mirrors. Then the general populace wrings their collective hands and figures the press and the politicians must know what they are talking about. I tried my best to wade through the Lisbon Treaty because I think that with the state of affairs here what happens in Europe and the EU will and can greatly affect us in the US. So I say to those who voted “no” congratulations, make the powers to be earn their stripes and really try their best to represent you the people, not the almighty $

  38. Hi Grandad, first comment and a bit late on that but you seem to have some clue on what’ going on.
    I read the treaty, several times, understood a fair portion of it and didn’t understand a fair portion of it, did a lot of research on it and I decided that it wasn’t a bad treaty, as treaties go, and I was willing to give Europe the benefit of the doubt.
    But, what I was asked to vote on when I got to the polling station was not, ‘Do you accept the Lisbon Treaty?’, it was ‘ Do you agree to change the Irish Constitution so that the treaty can be ratified?’.
    That, to me is a whole other question, one that was never explained anywhere I looked for information and one that was not dealt with by any of the campaigns. How come all of the emphasis/ explanations all centered around the barely understandable treaty and not on what we were actually asked to vote on? I would love to know how the treaty would change our constitution.
    Faced with that question at the polling station, I voted ‘No’.

  39. Hi Anarchy and welcome!

    I am by no means an expert. I think one of the main problems about the treaty is that no one is, including those who drafted it!

    I too was extremely concerned about the change in out constitution. This seems to have been carefully glossed over in the run up to the election

    From my understanding of it, and I may be wrong, but I think the change in the constitution was to allow our government to pass further changes in the treaty without recourse to a referendum. There was an excellent post about it over at Inane Ramblings.

  40. Thanks for clearing that up and thanks to Inane Ramblings for the research. No wonder we didn’t hear much about that one and just as well I voted ‘No’.

  41. Anarchy/Grandad – I don’t think that’s cleared up at all. Glad someone read the booklet, however 🙂

    first of all, why the ballot paper asked you about an amendment to the Constitution, was the whole point of the referendum, from day one. Ireland ratifying any EU treaty (since the Crotty judgement) requires an amendment to the constitution. Which has to be voted on by the general public.

    As the booklet says on the second page, “You are being asked to decide whether or not to change the constitution of Ireland to: allow Ireland to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon…” That’s where that comes from.

    Secondly (and I think you’re confusing two issues here) it also says to “allow Ireland to agree at the European Council to certain changes in the EU treaties; these changes may require a referendum or require the approval of the Dail and Seand”.

    Such changes, as explained later in the booklet (the paragraph after the part that Inane Ramblings) would be the moving of issues from unanimity to QMV in the European Council, would require unanimity in themselves, and do “not extend to military and defence issues”.

    If this was such a big deal, then why did the No campaign not mention it? Perhaps it would take too long to explain?

    On which note, sorry for the long comments…

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