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Cognitive dissonance at the Phoenix… Libertas, Kathy Sinnott and the anti-Lisbon Treaty Campaign… and what was the difference between social liberals and conservatives again? January 30, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Am I the only one to have noticed some oddities in the most recent issue of Phoenix magazine (incidentally, this post isn’t the place to mention it in any detail, but one has to salute the Phoenix for managing to soldier on regardless, apparently impervious to new media or the proliferation of magazines on the shelves of newsagents… in a world where one might suppose blogs would undercut their unique selling point as a sort of purveyor of insider information it is somehow heartening to see them continue serenely forward, relatively unfunny ‘funnies’ section and all). The Phoenix has always cleaved to a Eurosceptic position on the EU, long before the term had any common currency. I’ve often wondered if that was a function of Paddy Prendeville’s leftism, the residual nationalism that infuses its pages or just a generally sceptical worldview.

Anyhow, on one level they’re having a great time at the moment. This latest issue points up some entertaining information about the most vociferous representative of the new Fine Gael Young Turks, wonders aloud about the soon to be heard evidence from Eamon Dunphy’s at the Tribunal (a nation holds it’s breath), and notes the interesting recent statements from the President as regards the Hunt Museum. It’s a good issue, one might say they almost all are even if they can be read a little bit too swiftly.

But, they seem to lose their step when it comes to dealing with Declan Ganley and the Lisbon Treaty. So we are treated to two articles on the latter topic, one of which deals with Ganley and the other which while purporting to be an overview of Independent MEP seems to seek solace… well read on…

Firstly to the Ganley article. It’s an interesting piece about the apparently (and I’m quoting them…) ‘filthy rich’ ‘buccaneer capitalist’ businessman. It notes that his current critique of the EU was not quite so pronounced in the past when his business interests were more directed to eastern Europe, but since he established a company known as Rivada networks which creates emergency community networks and has started to sell into the US his emphasis has changed. Rivada has contracts with… well actually the rather unglamorous Louisiana National Guard amongst others. Still Ganley is welcome at the highish tables of the great and the good and has spoken at various worthy, rather rightist think tanks and organisations of a transatlantic hue. It’s hard to take entirely seriously the contention the Phoenix makes that this represents ‘Ganley [turning] into a neo-con critic of the EU… following the rapid growth of his Rivada Networks, which brought him business from the massive US military network’. Perhaps. But to be honest he still seems to be a fairly ordinary businessperson with an eye for publicity and some contracts with the fringes of the US military industrial complex who has seen an opening in the post-9/11 environment for a very specific service and knows how to promote his product. Still, give him neo-con tag… and away we go.

Still, the ‘neo-con’ tag obviously rankles the Phoenix, perhaps because they’re unused on this island to hearing right (but not socially illiberal right) critiques of the EU. So it is that we find an unlikely defence of Kathy Sinnott MEP being presented some pages later.

Once more Ganley is presented in unflattering terms, as being ‘enigmatic’ and his impact being described as ‘hard to predict as it may not amount to much more than the odd, melodramatic flourish or artificial media heave from the Mail’. For surely there is nothing worse than a media outlet or periodical engaging in boosterism of a … er… no… hold on…

Anyhow the profile of Sinnott actualy encompasses both Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin MEP, and Patricia McKenna, former Green Party MEP, all three critics – to varying degrees of the EU project.

Still, the profile attempts to present Sinnott as the ‘helm of the campaign’.

It argues that ‘Sinnott is characterised as a right-wing, Catholic fundamentalist, especially by some of the more self-righteous activists on the left’. It disagrees saying that she is ‘essentially the candidate of the disabled population and all the attendant relatives, carers, community workers and health workers – in other words the thousands of people who are associate with or affected by the issue of disability’. It then goes on to note that ‘At the same time Sinnott who resents being described as a religious politician, most definitely stands for family values and has been known to oppose contraception and divorce in the past while still an active campaigner with SPUC against abortion and stem cell research. She helped to launch the SPUC sponsored Amnesty for Babies before Birth Campaign in June 2006, and the year before she spoke at the John Paul II Society’s annual conference where she polemicised against abortion and stem cell research’. The article continues by noting that the Independence/Democracy Group in the EU Parliament contained ‘two unpleasant right-wing parties, the League of Polish Families and the Lega Nord, both of which have been forced out for their extremist views… Sinnott claims she was to the fore in purging these parties from the her parliamentary group, but she must surely have had some knowledge of their political make up before joining forces with them in an umbrella group’. Her base is described as a mix of disabled/carers and ‘those who see their Catholic and/ or Irish values threatened by a materialistic Europe…’.

So, clearly no hint there of ‘right-wing, Catholic views’, those pesky ‘self-righteous activists of the left’ refer too – eh?

The language becomes a tad more extraordinary when the profile notes that she ‘realised’ Dana was over-emphasising the religious to the exclusion of social content which led to her electoral failure. Sinnott by contrast has emphasised herself as a champion of the disabled, and not as a ‘primarily Catholic candidate’. And it continues ‘the onset of the brash Celtic Tiger and the godless (!) European Union has seen her very nearly take a Dáil seat in Cork’. Presumably as distinct from the Godly EEC and EC…

The article counterposes McKenna and McDonald as candidates who were ‘crushed’ or are likely to be so by the muscle of the main parties with Sinnott and argue that she is best positioned to rally the anti-Lisbon Treaty forces, far better it suggests than Justin Barrett of Youth Defence (who blotted his copybook last time around) or indeed the multitude of leftish groups campaigning in the area. She is part of the People’s Movement group of which McKenna is also a member, and the Phoenix argues that ‘Sinnott… proceeded to dominate a recent press conference with some cogent arguments about democracy in European nation states and the loss of Irish political power that will result from the Treaty’. She is further painted as ‘one of the main players in the debate, hard left hostility not withstanding…she is infinitely less abrasive than the dour… Barrett and although she is a Catholic militant she is not actually the clerical zealot depicted by some of her critics, possessing a wider and more liberal social outlook than such stereotypes…’. Perhaps. Perhaps.

It continues, and here we probably get to the heart of the calculation being made by the Phoenix… ‘More to the point she has a political appeal that is far wider than the reactionary Barrett and a base that is not confined to Cork or even Munster, but which is national.’

We’ll see.

I can’t help feeling that, whatever Sinnott’s personal worth, and she has indeed been a sincere and doughty campaigner in the area of disability, this is a somewhat self-serving analysis generated by positing that which she is not as the yardstick for that which she is. And it is the way in which Ganley whose anti-EU position is regarded as ‘enigmatic’ and who is posited as a bad bad ‘neo-con’ by the Phoenix, is contrasted with good good Sinnott whose views are… and let’s be frank here… strongly socially conservative whatever way one cuts it but are somehow okay because she’s ‘right’ about the EU, which is both entertaining and yet also a bit unconvincing.

It really seems to me that the Phoenix is unsure of what to make of Ganley. It’s almost as if it can’t quite believe that an issue close to its heart is being appropriated by the economic right – and why not, that’s not quite the message that a lot of the left in this country has heard before. Well, my advice? Get used to it as the economy tanks. This is something we may hear a lot more of as time progresses. Granted, perhaps Ganley is not the best placed to make a rightwing case against the EU, but such a case is there to be made and it is one that is very very different to that from the socially conservative right of Sinnott, let alone the broader centre left case. And it’s interesting if only because it points up a remarkably enduring consensus on the EU across much of the Irish political spectrum from centre left to right where the sort of agonising that characterised the British Conservative party simply wasn’t replicated in any fashion amongst either Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Progressive Democrats. Quite the opposite if anything, perhaps since the EU was seen in part as a proxy for the social liberalising agenda for some, as a proxy for modernisation by another group and as importantly as a source of infrastructural and agricultural funding by others. That the right, or a libertarian sliver of same, has woken up to the idea that the EU is somewhat less than an unqualified good is telling, is it not, as we enter a politically and economically more turbulent period than seen hitherto.

I’m also nowhere near convinced that Sinnott will play as well as the Phoenix supposes, nor am I convinced that McKenna or McDonald will play as poorly. Or to put it another way, the anti-Treaty left is actually quite well provided by two individuals who can present a forthright case against Lisbon without having to depend on someone whose views on certain issues are fairly contentious.

Still, the Phoenix is perhaps its usual sceptical (or realistic) self when it notes that ‘it is unlikely that [the political establishment and most of the media] will allow another Nice Treaty I debacle to occur again… but while Sinnott and her unlikely bed fellows may fail to prevent the treaty going through, she will certainly enjoy a campaign personally that will act as a dry run for the European elections next year’.

Yeah…that sounds about right.

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1.   Cognitive dissonance at the Phoenix… Libertas, Kathy Sinnott and … by medTRIALS.info - January 30, 2008

[...] post by WorldbyStorm delivered by Medtrials and [...]

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2. Eagle - January 30, 2008

I guess I can’t argue that the Louisiana National Guard is “unglamorous”, but they were the only ones to come out of the whole Katrina mess looking good. And, as time passed and the real truth of what actually happened (minus all the wild rape and murder stories) in New Orleans emerged, the better the Louisiana NG looked.

This is a good summary of what they accomplished during those turbulent days.

The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina, not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was. The situation was always under control, not surprisingly because the people in control were always there.

From the Dome, the Louisiana Guard’s main command ran at least 2,500 troops who rode out the storm inside the city, a dozen emergency shelters, 200-plus boats, dozens of high-water vehicles, 150 helicopters, and a triage and medical center that handled up to 5,000 patients (and delivered 7 babies). The Guard command headquarters also coordinated efforts of the police, firefighters and scores of volunteers after the storm knocked out local radio, as well as other regular military and other state Guard units.

… They contacted the National Guard Bureau in Washington via satellite phone for more help. That led officials at the national level to call a noon teleconference among all 52 state guard commanders, who got a laundry list of what the locals needed. The result was that more helicopter search and rescue teams began arriving late Monday from as far away as Wisconsin, close behind the original batch, mostly local, that tracked the storm in.

The procedure ran under a system known as EMACs (Emergency Management Assistance Compacts), a mutual aid pact among states. The conference call became a daily routine that was New Orleans’ primary lifeline to outside aid. It bypassed local officials and the fouled-up federal chain of command that led to much publicized infighting among the Governor, FEMA and the White House. According to the Senate Select Committee on Katrina, “This process quickly resulted in the largest National Guard deployment in U.S. history, with 50,000 troops and supporting equipment arriving from 49 states and four territories within two weeks. These forces participated in every aspect of emergency response, from medical care to law enforcement and debris removal…” the report said. All from the Superdome.

The Guard’s communication system was vital in saving thousands of people in New Orleans. The Phoenix may mock, but if there’s ever a similar emergency in Dublin they’ll be grateful if our civil defense authorities have the best communication equipment they can get.

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3. Maolsheachlann - January 30, 2008

Maybe, instead of pondering the difference between social liberals and social conservatives, you could explain the difference between liberalism and libertarianism. I’ve never been able to understand the distinction, and how it can be maintained by anything except some very precarious special pleading.

Personally, speaking from the old blinkered traditionalist social “right” (a placing I only accept through fatigue), I’m just as embarrassed as your “bury our past” crowd at the temporary allies that my anti-Lisbonism has given me.

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4. Eagle - January 30, 2008

I know that post was too long, but I really should have included this passage from that article too.

Also hard to ignore at the Dome was another big operation: support for local first responders. This effort included many of the black local heroes among the police and firefighting squads, despite misleading media reports leaving the impression they had either fled the city or walked off the job. The majority of local police and firefighters were available, though their communications system had been wiped out. They quickly hooked up with pre-positioned Guard units, as well as an army of volunteers in everything from flatboats to airboats. “We were just handing out radios to anyone who wanted one,” Dressler said.

The distribution of extra National Guard radios also helps explain why deaths were much lower than the 10,000 anticipated, even though the city’s emergency services comm network had been knocked out. National Guard communications, limited by range, were far from perfect, but better than nothing.

Communications – vital. The Guard knew what was happening and the media was guessing – badly.

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5. ProxyTron.biz » Blog Archive » ekrn.exe proxy in NOD32 Antivirus - January 30, 2008

[...] Cognitive dissonance at the Phoenix Libertas, Kathy Sinnott and the anti-Lisbon Treaty Campaign and …. Quite the opposite if anything, perhaps since the EU was seen in part as a proxy for the social liberalising agenda for some, as a proxy for modernisation by another group and as importantly [...]

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6. chekov - January 30, 2008

“Rivada has contracts with… well actually the rather unglamorous Louisiana National Guard amongst others. “

The emergency response network stuff is run by the department of Homeland Security. Part of their remit is to establish cross-departmental coms networks for use in emergencies by the security services.

In general, they run a pretty tight ship when it comes to security and Ganley must be an incredibly well-trusted dude to get such a contract.

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7. Eagle - January 30, 2008

Now, to the gist of your point.

First, why not mention Labour. Am I mistaken in believing that Labour is pro EU? I’ve been here since late 1991 and I think they’ve been on the ‘Yes’ side of any EU referendum we’ve had since. Were they opposed to the SEA?

In my mind, anyway, Labour is as committed to the EU as is FF, FG or the PDs. No?

And, now you have the Greens too? Well, if they’re content (or even half content) surely there must be something there for the ‘right’ to oppose?

My guess is that Ganley’s concern is that the EU will try to impose its will on tax rates across member states, enforce anti-business labor policies, commit the EU to economic suicide through excessively aggressive pro-environmental policies, etc.

All legitimate concerns to my mind. I haven’t read much of the Lisbon Treaty or its predecessor, but Article 2.3 of Lisbon is enough to give pause for thought:

The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment.

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8. CL - January 30, 2008

Its not entirely clear just what Ganley’s opposition to the Lisbon Treaty is. The left opposition is that Lisbon promotes neo-liberalism. But Ganley and his associates Paul MacDonnell and Constantin Gurdgiev are neo-liberalism ideologues. Irish business generally is in favour of Lisbon. Is Gurdgiev (ed. Business Finance) supporting Ganley in this?
Ganley preaches but does not practice neo-liberalism economics. Rivada’s board is filled with re-treads from Homeland Security and the U.S military and defence industries. This is not the ‘free competition’ that Ganley preaches. Rivada also has a contract with the U.S military to control immigration. Not exactly a libertarian position.
Ganley’s certainly echoes the neo-cons when he expresses his distaste for the ‘old Europe’-just as Rumsfeld did.
Joe Higgins makes some sense on this but a better understanding on the reasons for the right-wing opposition to Lisbon is needed.

http://www.socialistparty.net/

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9. Tomaltach - January 30, 2008

First to Eagle’s last comment. I see nothing wrong with that Article as quoted. We have an internal market already (though it’s uneven and there are exceptions). Nothing here guarantees tax harmonisation.

Nevertheless, tax harmonisation would be a concern. The question is, which part of this treaty provides for tax harmonisation?

Regarding the origins of Ireland’s love of the Eu. I think you are right that the liberal agenda and modernisation were key attractions at the time – and throughout the 80s. But so too was nationalism – in the sense that hugging the Eu allowed us to imagine we were somehow stepping out from the shadow of our old colonial masters. In currency for example, the punt remained tied to the pound until 1979. In trade, after joining the Eu our percentage trade with Britain dropped as we hooked up more to the EEC market, and later the single market. Plus there has always been a big Franco-phile strain in Irish political thought. In the beginning joining the Eu meant joining France and Germany. And to a large extent the liberal agenda and modernisation happened. True not soley on account of the Eu, but certainly it was a major facilitator. The economy is more questionable. At our darkest hour economically, 1987, we were already members of the Eu for a decade and a half. Of course the 8billion in structural funds lay in the future as did the fuller workings of the single market. While these were factors in the much disputed origins of the Tiger, it can hardly be said that Eu membership was the central driver. How much of that American investment would not have arrived if we hadn’t been members is impossible to guess.

But your question is valid: why have we not had more scepticism about the Eu in our political establishment?

In Britain though the question is easier to answer. They have a vastly different economic model than France or Germany. And Britain’s biggest engagements on the Continent during the 20th Century cost her a lot of blood and her Empire. Hardly benign memories. And regarding Sterling, there is little doubt that the attachment to the pound is viceral, but it is real as well. Britain has enjoyed one of its longest booms ever while, in monetary terms, sitting in splendid isolation. During much of that period her friends across the channel plodded along with double digit unemployment.

But our smallness is probably a factor too. In a world run by giants one needs big friends. And we certainly see ourselves as friends of the US, and latterly Britain. But also, the Eu, arguably the biggest market on Earth at the moment.

But we have arrived at a point where the tenor of proceedings is changing. Further integration, including the military kind, is bringing us into waters that remain very much uncharted. I think the Irish electorate senses that, even if they cannot spell out each new article of the Lisbon treaty.

So I think the debate about Lisbon will be more heated than about Nice. I hope that we manage to discuss all the issues in a genuine way — though there’s always a danger of drifting into scaremongering.

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10. WorldbyStorm - January 30, 2008

The problem is CL that it’s difficult to see the EU as being truly neo-liberal however hard neo-liberals in the Commission try. Genuine neo-liberals loathe the regulations etc., the commitments to welfarism, the environment, etc, etc… The EU is far from the US neo-liberal model, which is I hasten to add a good thing. Eagle is the man to talk to about this…

I take your points Tomaltach about our darkest hour… and yet, it does take years for economic effects to filter through (hence the joke about the US Presidential race where all the candidates promise to fix today’s problems when they won’t be in power until 12 months and any policy implemented won’t take effect for at least 12 months later…assuming it does at all). I think it’s important not to underestimate on the legal law side of things just what an influence EU membership was, and broadly for the better…

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11. CL - January 30, 2008

No state anywhere is ‘truly neo-liberal': because such a state would be an unlivable nightmare-Karl Polanyi showed why 60 years ago. But certainly Anglo-American economics-the underpinning of neo-liberalism-has not gone as far in Europe as in the U.S. or Britain. But surely it should be possible to discover if Lisbon promotes or retards neo-liberal political economy? The ‘cognitive dissonance’ I’m experiencing is how Joe Higgins can oppose Lisbon on the grounds that it promotes neo-liberalism, while Ganley/Libertas oppose Lisbon on the grounds that the treaty impedes the neo-liberal project. Perhaps the answer can be found when we look at Ganley’s businesses which benefit from government largesse, privatisation,lack of ‘free competition’ and involvement with the U.S military and anti-terror industries.

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12. Eagle - January 30, 2008

CL,

Irish business generally is in favour of Lisbon.

Do you know this to be true? Have the various business organizations weighed in on the Treaty? I know business hates uncertainty and a ‘no’ would mean great uncertainty. Business would be loathe to create instability even if they generally didn’t like the tone of the Treaty.

Tomaltach,

I see nothing wrong with that Article as quoted. We have an internal market already (though it’s uneven and there are exceptions). Nothing here guarantees tax harmonisation.

Although you see nothing wrong with that article, I see much that concerns me. (1) what is meant by “social market progress”, “full employment”, “balanced economic growth” and “price stability”. Each of those phrases just screams intervention to me. I see nothing neo-liberal about those words.

I haven’t read the whole treaty, so I can’t say if there’s anything in the Lisbon Treaty that might allow for tax harmonization, but it’s a topic that has exercised some of the big EU countries. I think that it’s a good idea to play on that possibility for those who want a ‘no’ vote. The actual wording of the treaty hardly matters.

I agree that membership of the EU was important for trade and for attracting investment, particularly from America. However, that doesn’t mean that Irish people have to support this new Treaty. Most of what was needed for the a functioning internal market was agreed at Maastricht. Other than enlargement, no change to the arrangements of the EU have been all that pro-business. I can’t see what possible commercial benefits will flow from this new Treaty. Every treaty requires a new analysis from a commerce perspective.

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13. Eagle - January 30, 2008

WBS,

The US is far from a neo-liberal model, but it’s a more rugged free market than the EU. However, I think that’s changing. Despite the media’s constant harping on how right wing Bush has been, he’s been far from the free marketeer that Reagan was or even his father. However, he hasn’t strayed that far.

That’s about to change, I think. The only way to prevent that would be for Hillary Clinton to win in November and two years from now to have the Republicans regain the Congress. That seems a pretty long shot right now, but you never know.

Of the three Republican contenders, none is all that free market. I suspect that McCain might be the most by instinct, but economic issues are not his strong suit. Romney is a manager, so he loves the idea of ‘helping’ the economy, which is British Toryism and not Reaganism. I fear the US is heading towards a Christian Democrat type party rather than the Republican Party of the past 28 years.

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14. Maman Poulet - January 31, 2008

Ms Sinnott ‘a sincere and doughty campaigner in the area of disability

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

Nope, not true, not in the eyes of this disabled person and many many others.

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15. Tomaltach - January 31, 2008

Eagle,
I’m afraid I don’t have as much faith in the market as you do. That is not to say that I advocate government control or that the government meddling in all areas. But I think few now fail to acknowledge serious failures in the market mechanism. Unfortunately there is no easy way to fix this but one way is for the elected representatives of the people to set norms, minimums, by way of regulation. Or if in certain cases the representatives of the people decide that certain areas should remain under closer control of the government, then that is fine if it can be made to work.

In any case, the rugged free market that you speak of in the US is certainly not where I want the EU to go. But neither do I want a centralised EU bureaucracy to dictate to every state how their particular norms should be set. I think each state needs a fair degree of autonomy to take its own path and build norms which fit its own culture. And there’s a line to be drawn between where the competence of a member state ends and where that of the EU begins. Deciding where that line ought to be drawn is horrendously difficult.

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16. Eagle - January 31, 2008

Tomaltach,

That is not to say that I advocate government control or that the government meddling in all areas. But I think few now fail to acknowledge serious failures in the market mechanism.

Fair enough. I figured that anyway. I regularly acknowledge the failure of the market in many ways. I just don’t believe that government usually or even occasionally is the right answer. To my mind, government is rarely the answer to where the market fails and the more the government answer becomes a permanent fixture, the greater the problems that creates.

The market fails and so does the government. I just think the market is more often right than the government. I’m not ideological on this to be honest, it’s just my own sense of how these things work. (For example, government run monopoly telephone company means – terrible service, high prices and thousands of extra workers making themselves busy. Privatized phone services mean – better service, more choice, lower prices and greater creativity. I’m not, however, in favor of privatizing services that are, by necessity, anti-competitive – like water supply & distribution.)

I think each state needs a fair degree of autonomy to take its own path and build norms which fit its own culture. And there’s a line to be drawn between where the competence of a member state ends and where that of the EU begins. Deciding where that line ought to be drawn is horrendously difficult.

Fully agree with you there. I was in favor of enlargement. I like the big, but shallow model for the EU. This was, however, supposedly why the French & Dutch voters rejected the Constitution. I have only started my check, but I think the Lisbon Treaty differs from the EU Constitution in that these Dutch & French concerns have been addressed.

And, I think small, local governments can often intervene more successfully than big governments. Keep it small and keep it local. That’s my philosophy on government.

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17. Tomaltach - January 31, 2008

Eagle,
Your final remark resonates: keep it small and keep it local. I fully agree that this is a wise starting point. Then, bigger issues require a higher level of concerted action. Negotiating at the WTO, or bargaining with China, or working against Nuclear proliferation. Or at a smaller level, national government is going to be need to provide a health service or an army. Imagine if Co. Donegal had its own army and Leitrim tried to set up its own self contained health service. Local so far as is possible, then higher when necessary. But getting that balance right is an imperfect science.

Regarding the French rejection. I was living in France at the time and paying fairly close attention to what was going on. The difficulty with all referenda is that you are asking a yes or now answer to a question which is usually very complex. Worse still, the electorate might answer a totally different question such as : do you like Jaques Chirac? Or in our own case, if the economy slides and the government make a few (more) fuckups, the electorate might want to give them a bloody nose. In the French case there was a genuine fear of offshoring to low cost location (at the time their unemployment was in double digits). There was also great disaffection with Chirac. Recall, he won his second election only because the run off was against Le Pen. In that sense, for his second term, Chirac really had no mandate – or a shallow one. But the French were also scarred that the Constitution was, as opponents called it ultra-liberal. In fact, as far as I can gather (and I have not compared the two documents clause for clause) there is very little substantive difference between the two. The bulk of the aspirations remain the same. A few of the emotive items have been removed or downplayed, but none of the nuts and bolts were changed. It’s the same book in a new dust jacket. In that sense the French did not get what they wanted originally, but of course, it was never exaclty clear what they wanted. (I cannot speak for the Dutch). In the meantime, France’s political landscape has changed. Despite their concerns with the ultra-liberal nature of the constitution, they elected a right wing playboy… I mean president. And the left is in disarray. (In fact the left in France began to collapse with the referendum campaign when senior politician on the left, Laurent Fabius delcared for the No camp).

In my head I remain divided on whether a referendum is the most effective way of making this kind of decision. Having said that, if I err on any side it was to be with the people, depsite the flaws in the mechanism. If the political class believe this is best for Ireland, let them persuade us. The trouble is, they may not have that much credibility. But then, we put them there to handle complex decisions. Democracy is many things but it’s rarely very neat.

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18. CL - January 31, 2008

The Reagan and Thatcher revolutions were so successful that the ‘free market’ ideology is now the conventional wisdom. Just as in Britain Blair was the ideological successor to Thatcher, in the U.S. Clinton continued what Reagan had begun. This was clearly seen in Nafta and in welfare reform. As for the current candidates for president, this is what Obama’s main economic adviser has to say about Milton Friedman:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/17/business/17milton.html

Notice Goolsbee does not dispute Friedman’s ‘basic worldview’, i.e. his ideology. Nor does he mention Chile.

It should be noted that the neo-liberal project is not ‘anti-intervention': government intervention is necessary for the neo-liberal project to succeed. The ‘free market’ system itself is the result of government intervention. So the Lisbon treaty might be interventionist and yet promote the ‘free market’.

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19. Eagle - January 31, 2008

Tomaltach,

This was not in the Constitution, but it’s in the Lisbon Treaty. I think this is to address French & Dutch concerns.

The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

In the Constitution, the same article read as follows:
The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, and an internal market where competition is free and undistorted.

The internal market is now dealt with in an extra sub point to this article, but look at those words that have been added with regards to immigration and border controls.

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20. Tomaltach - January 31, 2008

Yes, the immigration particularly Dutch concerns I think. I recall the debate as well concerning the phrase of competition free and undistorted. The French left were unhappy with this and it was removed. Or was it. Not really. Smoke and mirrors were employed to hide it. A protocol “on the internal market and competition” has been added which says basically “hey, recall, the EU already has a clause on undistorted competition”:

the internal market as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union includes a system ensuring that competition is not distorted

One of the problems which the constitution suffered was that it attempted to bring the existing treaties and provisions under one roof (mostly unchanged). And people saw it all and thought “fuck, is that in there already, I’m not voting for that”. Of course they didn’t really realise that by rejecting it, those reaffirmed provisions would remain in effect under the previous treaties which of course remain in force. Bundling it all together then was the biggest mistake the architects made. It was way too much for the public to digest and gave too much ammunition to scare mongerers. Lisbon too is still substantial. My soft copy runs to close to 300 pages. The trouble now is that the debate will still be muddied by hype and hysteria and not a reasoned debate on what the union provides. You cite the example of border controls. So the Eu aspires to provide border controls etc. But that text does not specifiy where that competence lies. In fact, it still lies with the nation states. Hence this treaty will not for example force Ireland to join schengen or to sign up to the common european arrest warrant. As I understand it common security and defence remains under the unanimity in council requirement.

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21. Eagle - January 31, 2008

Tomaltach,

I sent an e-mail to the Dublin Office of the European Parliament and asked for a copy of the Lisbon Treaty and they sent it to me. Free.

I think you’re right that people didn’t like the Constitution and what it said even though it was bascially all the previous treaties distilled in one document. I, however, was opposed because I’m glad that the EU authorities are finding it hard to get things done with 27 members. I don’t want them doing any more than they’re already doing.

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22. Craig - February 7, 2008

I’ve met Sinnott on a number of occassions (heard her speak at UCC as well) and she doesn’t deserve the negative comments thrown at her by the left and others. She’s one of the most active campaigners for families with disabled children, and in the EU she has the courage to argue against a constitution … sorry, reform treay… that is almost taken for granted by the smug elites. Her enthusiasm and independence sets her apart from the Tweedledums and Tweedledees of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

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23. WorldbyStorm - February 7, 2008

Hmmm… not sure enthusiasm and independence are sufficient to convince me vis other aspects of her ideological stance Craig.

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