Friday, October 2, 2009
It's Friday October 2nd and this can only mean one thing in Ireland - Polling Day for the Lisbon Treaty 2009. This is a controversial treaty which has led to much debate which has descended into bitter squabbling with scaremongering allegations from opposing sides.
The country's roadsides are once again littered with Yes and No Posters - and it is generally agreed that the No posters have been spreading lies and fear, particularly those from an odious and shadowy group that go by the name of Cóir. They appear to be the grown-up wing of that group of far-right activists known as Youth Defence, whose tactics have been roundly condemned in the past. They purport to be a Pro-Life anti-abortion pro-family organisation but they have picketed politician's houses in the past where the views or opinions didn't fit with their rather fanatical philosophies. Many of the No campaigners are staunchly xenophobic and use this to promote their cause, citing the possibility of further waves of immigration to our shores from undesirables from poor countries should Ireland vote Yest to Lisbon Treaty.
Libertas and their leader Declan Ganley have been around since the first Lisbon Treaty Referendum last year - and they re-emerged for the European Elections to run candidates in every country, sure of their ground - only to suffer the ignominy of fading to oblivion when the electorate showed what they thought of them - one candidate in France got in on their platform, to the best of my knowledge. He then said that was the end of his political career, only to resurface last month for another swipe at the Lisbon Treaty. His shady funding sources have been a constant cause for discussion and his refusal to disclose them has lost him and his party credibility, as he is a millionaire businessman whose fortune was founded on communications for the US military in Iraq - though he tries to distance his business from his politics the Irish aren't fools.
Well most of us aren't , though there are many who would have us back in the dark ages of our pre-European entry days - Ireland before 1972 was not a pleasant place - it was church driven for all the wrong reasons - to exert control over a passive scared flock and to keep women in their place - tied to the home whether they liked it or not. Most of my friends overseas couldn't believe it when I told them of the ultimate sanction Ireland had in law against women - the Marriage Bar - which determined that women had to resign from most public service jobs on marriage!
This anachronism only disappeared after we joined Europe - and I am old enough to remember it, as I had many friends in the Civil Service when I was a student in Dublin, and spent many an evening at farewell parties for those who were leaving to get married! This shows a small snapshot of life in Ireland in living memory that to most civilised people would seem to be prehistoric.
This is one reason why I am so passionately pro-European. I haven't time here to go into all the other anachronisms that characterised Ireland in those days -mostly associated with sex - the lack of contraception, the illegality of homosexuality, the demonisation of pregnant unmarried mothers who were shipped off to Magdalen Laundries to be incarcerated as slave labourers - up to the 1990s - and the horrendous child abuse that was institutionalised and about which I wrote earlier in a post on the Ryan Report.
That's why the only sane vote today is a YES vote - for all the reasons I touched on above. The Irish Labour Party (of which I am a proud member) is also advocating a Yes vote. Needless to say I am proud to be a European as well as Irish - I don't believe they are mutually exclusive and indeed I like to think we are all global citizens as human beings - the world would be a better place if there was less ardent nationalism - we have seen where it led us in the last century and the European Union's lasting legacy has been the longest period of peace in Europe in recorded history