Friday, October 2, 2009

Fear and Loathing from NO campaigners - a Good Reason for Voting YES!

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


Irene said...

Yes, we very much need to be European citizens, I as a Dutch woman as well. It's the healthiest thing to do for a broad thinking, socially engaged person. We have to think beyond our borders and learn from what our neighbors close to us and further away do with their problems, so we don't all invent the wheel on our own time and time again. I am a European first and then a Dutch woman and I'm not worried about my identity one bit.

Niamh Griffin said...

Hi Catherine, thanks for commenting! I did in the end go with Yes, for many of hte reasons you listed here. My problem wasn't being anti-Europe at all, but with parts of the Treaty. I do think that we're in now and have done so well in the last 36 years that we should stay in there, but that doesn't meant that everything is perfect. I somehow think it's time I got more involved now that I'm starting to understand things and feel more comfotable expressing an opinion again. I was quite annoyed at how emotive the whole discussion became; this is a really important treaty which changes some fundatmental issues in how European countries realte to each other. It's a far bigger issue than the emotional things which Coir etc were raising, shame really that so few people on the No side were like M Higgins and capabale of expressing themselves in a rational way.
Let's see what happened today!

Catherine said...

Thanks for the comments - IRENE - agree about the universality of being Europeans and citizens of our own countries. I don't see any dichotomy between the two. We can be proud citizens and also proud Europeans, we shouldn't always look west as Ireland has done in healthcare - looking to the US for a health care model of public vs. private has been a disaster. So I am all for European social democracy. We are feeling much happier today in spite of the recession as I think we can feel more secure in than out. I have some more links on the new post - already commented on that.

Catherine said...

NIAMH - I hope you are glad you voted Yes, it would be a shame if there were regrets. I didn't want the whole thing to be distracted by becoming an anti-government protest. Of course I agree everything isn't perfect, no one would be so arrogant to think it is. In fact Holland was voted best healthcare in Europe recently by some survey - can't remember which one - and yet I have friends there who think the heathcare provision there has gone to hell in a handcart since Balkenende and his cohort are in power - they are Christian Democrats.Agree about Higgins being rational compared to Cóir and Libertas but he still put forward some rhetoric that was not standing up to scrutiny. I wish I had found the VoteYes blog (I linked to it on the newer post I wrote) sooner as it seemed to clarify things succintly.