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That Libertas Convention May 4, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, European Union, Irish Politics.
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I’m very grateful to EWI for writing the following and allowing us to publish it here… a piece which may give some answer to the question as to just what is the Libertas policy platform. Or may not ;) (and no fault of EWI’s, that)

Fun and games indeed at the Libertas shindig and PR event – sorry, “Convention” – in Rome this past Friday, no doubt paid for on the Chairman’s dime. The Irish Independant‘s Lise Hand:

IT was all a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest-meets-the-Moonies. Up on the stage of the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Libertas leader Declan Ganley and the party’s lead candidate in Holland, Eline van den Broek, were cheerleading the 1,000-strong crowd of largely well-scrubbed young believers, each clutching a rainbow of national flags.

(The Irish Times’ Paddy Agnew was also there)

And so, what happened with the Chairman’s tease of a mystery guest speaker? Step forward… Lech Walesa! Agnew:

Although he will not be running for Libertas in the upcoming European elections, the former Polish president expressed his full support. “Declan Ganley and Libertas have the potential to change Europe for the better. This European project has all the ingredients to become a historic force for good in the world, and grow into so much more than it is today, but for that to happen, we need to heed the Libertas message and put the people back at the heart of the project,” he said.

Here’s Walesa endorsing the Chairman’s organisation at the Libertas event:

Oops, did I say Libertas? That’s surely the very same Lech Walesa just the day before, appearing at the launch of decidedly pro-Europe (and Libertas target in these elections) the European People’s Party (hat-tip to ‘mamur1916′). Odd, that. And Walesa’s appearance, as may have been guessed by those of us familiar with Polish national politics, caused a walk-out in protest by “Libertas Poland”. Has another of Libertas’ stunts come unstuck, yet again?

Libertas spokespersons, unsurprisingly, were talking up the event. Libertas EU Dublin candidate Caroline Simons:

“I’m delighted, you [journalists] must be really surprised to see so many people here. I don’t think that the media realised there was this huge movement growing in Europe.”

Strange, then, that for all of the “huge movement” that the Chairman’s live, webcast address doesn’t seem to have been exactly lighting up the Internet:
Libertas_convention_Rome_4_chairmans_address

And as for attendance in their c.1,000 seat venue, well:
Libertas_convention_Rome_attendance

For an organisation which claims a million members, not being able to fill your own (modest) venue is a little… embarressing, surely.
Now, to the Chairman’s speech:

Something is happening, all across Europe.

An ancient voice is calling us… one that some of us had almost forgotten about. An old force is pulling us together once more.DEMOCRACY… People are coming together to take Europe back for themselves.

Your leaders have just done something that has NEVER been done before. They have signed a solemn, DEMOCRATIC pledge…

A pledge that says, right across Europe… wherever Libertas exists… we will ALWAYS fight so that the PEOPLE have the final say.

[...]

It may sound a bit dramatic to those, in the cozy media bubble, that enjoy telling us what to think… but there has NEVER been a more important European election than this one. It is, quite simply, the LAST chance we have to ensure that our voice – Europe’s voice – is heard.

That is the choice that will confront us in June. Who rules Europe in the future? The unelected elites or the people?

[...]

On the other hand, when you HAVE to be unelected to make the law… it is the mediocre that will ALWAYS flourish. The nearly-men and the rejects of our national governments always seem to find a happy home in the European Commission, don’t they? Now, I don’t know about you, but shouldn’t the highest decision-making body have the BEST people in it?

Can’t we create a system which gives us confidence that those at the top are making the RIGHT decisions in our name? That allows the best and the brightest to rise to the very pinnacle of European politics.

To coin a phrase… “Yes We Can”!

[...]

Their hearts may be pure… but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Let US be the people that said, ‚ÄòNOT IN OUR NAME‚Äô.

And so on and so forth, liberally ‘borrowing’ from great speeches of the past – and still managing to mutilate the English language while doing so. He eventually gets around (finally!) to Libertas’ platform, which is:

Here are four, core policies that ONLY Libertas can offer this June:

First, GENUINE accountability. Your national parties… the Socialists, the Conservatives, the Communists and the Nationalists… ALL of them have failed you.

[...]

Second, the European Union MUST… as a MATTER OF PRINCIPLE, demonstrate real VALUE FOR MONEY, beginning today.

[...]

THAT is why we are the only party to have committed to 10 billion Euros in savings from the Commission budget.

[...]

Third, because it is right and proper that politicians have the same ethical standards that we would apply to ourselves, we must have FULL DISCLOSURE OF what they EARN and what they DECIDE.

[...]

FINALLY, only our ELECTED politicians should make the law. If we elect our MEPs, we should give them real power. The representatives of the people must not only have the power to represent the people, but they must have the power to defend the people.

The irony in Libertas espousing the third policy will be obvious to anyone who’s been following the shenanigans with Libertas’ funding over the past year. The second is very nice, right up there with bringing world peace (and just as ephemeral and unattainable). The first and last policies we shall deal with in a moment. And what of the ‘fifth’ principle – Have Your Say, i.e. referendums in each state – previewed by Libertas just the day before? No sign, apparently.
And there’s quite a degree of cognitive dissonance in an operation like Libertas (composed as it is of various far right, conservative religious, nativist and even fascist political groups) trying to rub off some of that Obama magic – the more so as Rivada employees and (at least the Irish wing of) Libertas are heavily composed of noted past admirers of one George W. Bush. Indeed, consider the following mortifying little moment during the morning’s speeches. Lise Hand again:

Among the speakers at the convention yesterday morning was Spain’s lead candidate Miguel Duran, who is pro-European. He is blind, and for years successfully headed up a powerful organisation representing the blind and disabled.

And Senor Duran won one of the biggest cheers of day during his address, when he announced: “I want to find with Declan a new Europe, a white Europe, not a black Europe.”

This went down a storm with a large section of the crowd.

But alas for the enthusiasts, his remark wasn’t as black and white at it seemed.

“Blind persons know very well what is the difference between black and white because we always live inside the darkness. So I don’t want the next Europe to be dark Europe,” he explained, to more muted applause.

Hmm.
Now, back to Libertas’ stated first and fourth platform policies – namely “accountability” and “only elected politicians should make the law”. I think that I can safely say (as someone who grew up inside the world of one of the major political parties in this State, and am familiar with how real parties function), that Libertas itself is by far the oddest political creature I’ve come across:
– Where is their party constitution? The Libertas ‘Institute’ which preceded the formation of the party – and was the entity which contested the Lisbon Referendum – had a rather strange foundation. How are their EU candidates selected? This, absent any other informaion, seems to be entirely the prerogative of the Chairman – and his chequebook.
– Where were the motions and procedural legalities which normal political parties must go through? There are no reports anywhere of any such activities going on during the one actual morning that Libertas’ ‘delegates’ actually met together in Rome. Most peculiar.

- When and where did the elections of party officers occur? From the evidence so far, it seems reasonable to assume that Libertas officials are appointed by Ganley and have until recently generally double-jobbed as his own Rivada employees, as illustrated by one of the original supposed ‘founders’ of the Libertas Institute now seeking to deny his former boss in public this past week. For all their evasiveness and muddying of the waters on the question, the party’s funding appears mostly provided by Ganley’s fortune, allegedly in the form of ‘loans‘ which may or may not be repaid. It seems that the further you dig, the more appropriate becomes Paddy Matthews’ description of Libertas as the ‘Creepy Party’.

In fact, the obvious parallel which springs to mind is with Silvio Berlusconi’s wholly-owned political organisation, which the Italian mogul runs in the manner of just another arm of his business empire. Now, the question is this: Berlusconi invests such time and energy in his political party mostly as a means of staying out of an Italian jail, due to his peculiar circumstances – but (ego massage aside), what exactly is Ganley getting out of his?

Postscript Amusingly enough, yet another old friend of Free Stater HQ – one Eamonn Fitzgerald – has come out of the woodwork to promote Libertas this past week, and the Walesa stunt in particular. Really, Chairman Ganley really has the worst luck in somehow attracting a preponderance of right-wing conservative Catholics with an pro-anglosphere/anti-EU worldview to join his party, despite protestations of Libertas’ “broad range of support“.

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Comments»

1. EWI - May 4, 2009

My thanks for putting it up, WbS (and my apologies for the formatting glitches. This post was written across three different computers since Friday, including an iPod!).

I need to give a shout out to Ralf Grahn’s blog as well, which I found while trying (in vain) to find out more concrete details on Google about Libertas’ little junket to Rome:

http://grahnlaw.blogspot.com/2009/05/who-are-libertas-and-what.html

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2. ep - May 4, 2009

I saw the Declan Ganley program on RTE a while back and I was surprised at the way they went about blackening his name. It was like PR in reverse. They actually used sinister music that you find in a standard thriller. That shows you how stupid they think the public are. Maybe the level of trickery needed to fool us is`nt as high as I thought. Anyway free speech is`nt a crime yet so what i want to say is This is supposed to be Irelands best blog but you should be independant. Say what you think not what you think the crowd would say. Your piece on ganley is so blatantly one sided that It looks like whoever dominates RTE has got to you to.

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3. WorldbyStorm - May 4, 2009

You’re more than entitled to express your opinion and we’re glad of it here.

Fairly sure that this isn’t Ireland’s best blog by a long margin, but you’ll find a range of opinion on the EU here from pro to anti. Which is what I think I’d class as independent (not least in so far as last week we happily carried two pieces from the Communist Party of Ireland taking a very euro-sceptic line and our contributor Garibaldy would I think also be at the least euro-critical – and I’d add I asked for anti-Lisbon pieces in the run up to the referendum).

That said I think it’s very fair to discuss Libertas in the context of what it says it is and what it does. This *is* a *left wing* blog and therefore the nature of Libertas as an entity which incorporates strongly right wing and in some cases what I personally would term extremely socially conservative groups is of interest to our contributors and I’d hope to anyone who drops by. Nothing one sided there. And certainly unlikely that whoever dominates RTÉ has ‘got to us’.

I’ll support a point or two you make. I agree, it’s ridiculous to have editorialising sound tracks to material on Ganley. It cheapens any critique. I also think that strongly factually based analyses speak for themselves and there’s no need for people to ‘blacken’ names. Again, it comes down to words and actions.

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4. smiffy - May 4, 2009

There’s a very funny little calculator over on the Libertas website (http://www.libertas.eu/ – right of the screen) which purports to tell you what proportion of the EP seats a vote for your ‘national party’ is worth. For example, I stated that I expected ‘my’ party to win 2 seats, and Libertas kindly informed me that this represented 0.2% of the parliament.

Nothing remarkable there (other than the pointlessness). However, far more amusing is the little box that opens underneath the results, which marks the entire parliament blue and states that ‘With a vote for Libertas you can win 785 seats’.

Leaving aside the obvious point about 785 seats/785 different policies, surely this would mean that virtually every person who attended the Imperial Rally in Rome would run for election/become an MEP. Surely this would make the Rome event the political equivalent of the famous Sex Pistols gig at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1976.

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5. EWI - May 4, 2009

Anyway free speech is`nt a crime yet so what i want to say is This is supposed to be Irelands best blog but you should be independant. Say what you think not what you think the crowd would say. Your piece on ganley is so blatantly one sided that It looks like whoever dominates RTE has got to you to.

Well, I’m just a commenter and occasional contributor of articles here, so I’ll leave it up to the CLR’ers (none of whom I’ve ever met, to my knowledge) to respond on the subject of their own blog. I myself am a lapsed member of Fianna Fáil (and involved with no other party since, though I did go to protest Bush both times he came here), and its been many years since I was at a party meeting. So that’s my personal background, quite different from that of the Cedar Loungers, I suspect – and my opinions are most certainly my own. Libertas is definitely worthy of closer examination on its claimms, as are the colourful cast of characters who are associated with it.

The use of ‘mood’ music isn’t something reserved for being used by RTÉ solely on Libertas (or, for that matter, by RTÉ alone). There’s been very obvious editorial lines pursued by parts of RTÉ in the past, and no doubt will again. And I’ll refer you to Madam Dobson’s brow-furrowing and faux-populism of a Main Evening News, most days of the week, for an example of what’s fallen short with the station’s public service broadcaster status. I’m very, very far from being a defender of RTÉ.

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6. EWI - May 4, 2009

Incidentally, it’s rather striking that the Chairman’s self-proclaimed foe in the media isn’t RTÉ, but rather the Irish Times (and let’s say that it’s a safe assumption that this is ultimately a show meant for voter consumption).

The only significant difference between the two media outlets that springs to mind is that the IT is seen by the public to be very much anti-Catholic Church in comparison to Montrose.

Odd, that.

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7. Starkadder - May 4, 2009

I think the Sunday Independent in the early-mid ’90s was trying
to out-do the IT for the anti-CC slot. This is probably still why
Emer O’Kelly gets such a prominent slot in the Sindo (and to be
fair, she more readable then the average SI journalist).

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8. European Elections Leaflet Watch: Raymond O’Malley of Libertas « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - May 5, 2009

[...] Irish Politics. trackback Thanks to hannor for forwarding this material to the CLR, which links in nicely with EWI’s post [...]

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9. cactus flower - May 5, 2009

It seems that Mr. Walensa says he was paid to attend the convention. He seems at this stage to be a deeply compromised figure, who spends much of his time collecting awards and paraphernalia from obscure “Orders”.

The “look” of Libertas’s campaign has taken on a higher gloss and functional focus since Ganley employed a high powered campaign team including Joe Trippi (some involvement with Obama’s internet campaign)and Lynton Crosby (worked for Howard in Australia and Boris in London). Libertas had originally said that the Party’s policy would be published in Rome more than a month ago. The delayed convention still didn’t give us any sign of a party programme. Libertas still promises us something “In a few weeks”.

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cactus flower - May 5, 2009

…contd. from 8.

In the absence of published policy, the main means we have of judging Libertas is on the track record of its constituent members:
a rag bag of far right grouplets, several of whom are in decline on their home turf.

In registering as a political party last week, Libertas stated it had more than 300 members in Ireland. It is surprising then that they couldn’t muster more than about 500 people max. in Rome.

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10. WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2009

You’d wonder wouldn’t you if the approach of using Trippi makes any sense. I mean the internet campaign for the Democrats was built on an actually existing organic infrastructure however weak and building on top of that. The difference here seems to be the building on top is constructed with nothing very clearly beneath it.

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