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Libertas: the plot thickens. March 25, 2008

Posted by smiffy in European Union, Fine Gael, Lisbon Treaty.
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If you ever find yourself described by Dick Roche as having plumbed “a new low” in Irish politics, you might afford yourself a wry smile and a roll of your eyes at the irony.  If you find yourself described as such by Dick Roche, and he’s right, then it’s probably time to reconsider what you’re doing with your life.

Today’s story about Libertas’ proposed billboard campaign is, frankly, bizarre.  While to date the organisation has appeared to be little more than a suspicious vehicle for a rather ardent self-promoter with a few quid in his back pocket, this latest development represents their descent into the completely incomprehensible.

Let’s leave aside the hypocrisy of a group which, less than three weeks ago, issues a press release stating:

Libertas will do whatever it takes to defeat this treaty, but we will never lie about its contents, and we will never say that our opponents are a reason not to vote for it.

(hat-tip to ibis on politics.ie for drawing attention to this), and then launches a campaign which has absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the Treaty and is based entirely on who its opponents are. 

Let’s even leave aside the irony that barely two weeks ago, Libertas announced its ‘facts, not politics’.  Let’s assume – crazy assumption though it may be – that Libertas is an entirely unprincipled organisation that will say or do anything in order to try and sway the electorate towards a ‘No’ vote and doesn’t care that it displays a complete lack of integrity in doing so.  Does this campaign even make sense?

One might understand the reasoning behind the “Don’t vote for Mandelson’s Europe” campaign to be run in rural areas (Mandelson being less than flavour of the month with the IFA these days).   Obviously, it’s got nothing to do with the Treaty but we’ve learned that we shouldn’t expect miracles (or relevance) from Libertas.

One can even see why they would use the Ahern/Kenny “Don’t let them sell you a bad deal” poster.  Again totally irrelevant, has nothing to do with the Treaty and is almost beautiful in the purity of its mindless negativity.  However, it does appeal to a certain moronic mentality which somehow feels that the upcoming referendum is a valuable opportunity to register its disapproval with the current government.

What seems utterly bizarre is the Lucinda Creighton campaign that they’re proposing to run in Dublin South-East.

 Creighton_poster

Now, we know that quote used in the poster dates from 2003, when Creighton wasn’t a T.D., wasn’t even a city councillor and was nothing more than a rather unpleasant member of Young Fine Gael notable for an insatiable ambition and an ego the size of, well, Declan Ganley’s.  It’s obviously somewhat disingenuous for Libertas to exhume the reference, but its lack of respect for context, facts and basic truth has already been established.

A few points strike one about this poster.  Firstly, it’s creditably well known that Creighton enjoys a reasonable level of support in Dublin South-East (the only constituency this poster is being run in).  Next, that constituency is one of the more consistently pro-EU in the country (although that support may not be evenly distributed between the various wards).  Now, it’s probably reasonable to assume that those who supported Lucinda Creighton in the general election are strongly pro-EU and are unlikely to be tempted to vote No on the basis of this poster.  Similarly, those who have a strong aversion to Lucinda Creighton as a politician (and I’d count myself among them) are likely to be those inclined towards a No vote in any event, making this poster entirely superfluous.

So what exactly is Libertas trying to achieve with this?  Despite the relentless self-publicity, Creighton is still a relatively minor figure in the Irish political firmament.  Does Libertas genuinely believe that pointing to the fact that she claims (or claimed) to support a European army (and, of course, we don’t know from the poster what kind of army she was referring to) is going to have their opinion of the Treaty formed on this basis.  Those who know Creighton would hardly be surprised by the statement, and those who don’t know her will likely just shrug theirshoulder in incomprehension.

Indeed, from Creighton’s point of view, this personalised campaign must be seen as something of a boon.  It massively increases her profile and is hardly likely to lose her votes among those anyway likely to support her in the first place.  It’s almost as if Libertas were going out of their way to help her.  A conspiracy theorist might point to the fact that the Libertas spokesperson quoted in the Irish Times article, John McGuirk, is or was quite prominent in Young Fine Gael and, according to his Young Blood profile in the Phoenix last year, worked on Creighton’s campaign in the 2007 general election.  Is the poster intended to give her a sly boost in the constituency or, alternatively, has success caused her to distance herself from her erstwhile ally, like Prince Hal disowning Falstaff, and is the campaign being driven by some personal animus.

This kind of speculation, while enjoyable to a point, is actually a side-issue to the most objectionable aspect of the Libertas strategy: its utter contempt for the Irish electorate.  Libertas complains that the voters aren’t being provided with information on the Treaty, then runs a campaign like this.  The implication is that people aren’t capable of an informed debate about the content of the Treaty, although the truth is that the real incapacity lies with Libertas.  It’s also a style of campaigning which panders to the lowest common denominator, and is similar in that sense to the infamous “Hello divorce, bye bye Daddy” poster in the divorce referendum.

If Republican Sinn Féin can be described as a cargo cult version of republican politics, Libertas seems to be the cargo cult version of Fine Gael.  While Fine Gael’s 2007 poster campaign smacked of the result of a few young bulls on Mount Street who’d watched a little too much West Wing, it at least had a purpose in its ultimate goal of maximising the party’s support in the electorate.  The sheer incoherence, contradiction and ignorance of the Libertas output, however, reminds one of the Fine Gael campaign, but without the electoral ambitions.  It’s a mess of half-thought out slogans and empty posturing but seemingly devoid of any ultimate purpose other than publicity for publicity’s sake.

What Ganley’s real motivation for presiding over this Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is remains an open question; no doubt it’s one we’ll return to before June.

Comments»

1. Dec - March 25, 2008

I really like this blog because its well usually extremly well written, balanced, challenging and informative however this post is the same type of post that is barfed up on politics.ie every day of the week.

Sorry to be all negative but this is just personalised dirge.

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2. a very public sociologist - March 26, 2008

I see the Europhobes across the Irish Sea are as unpleasant as our homegrown variety. A thought that’s depressing but strangely comforting at the same time.

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3. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

Got to be honest Dec, re the campaign I had much the same thoughts as smiffy. Libertas – which has some pretty intelligent people in it – has quite obviously changed its stated position on personalised campaigns, how else to interpret the Creighton poster? (Incidentally I have little time for Creighton’s acid brand of politics, so it’s unusual to be well, not quite defending her… or indeed FG and FF). Or indeed the one I cycle past on the seafront in Clontarf at the weekend while getting some exercise which has Kenny and Ahern and a complete absence of political message other than ‘if they want it, you don’t’. It really is hard to see the political strategy here, other than one which shifts hard towards a ‘take the audience for granted’ position. This could well be a function of the campaign itself, I’ve been involved myself in the dim and distant past in the promotional side of elections and Euro campaigns and am all too aware of how a dynamic can develop where ‘do something, anything’ overtakes considered analysis. I suspect I’d be a tad more charitable than smiffy on that issue… but politically who is this addressing? What sectors of the Irish people?

I also think there is a strong case to be made that the Treaty is flawed, but this is certainly not the way to go about it. It smacks far too much of media and marketing heads getting together.

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4. EWI - March 26, 2008

‘Twouldn’t be the same John McGuirk who campaigned for an end to the CAP back in the day, would it?

“The time to end CAP has now come. It’s continued existence, in summary, promotes artifically high prices for consumers at the price of third world farmers. It consumes 50% of the EU budget, which is redistributed to 2% of the population, who account for 1% of GDP.
It is unfair to the rest of us, and unfair to many developing countries, at whom we continue to throw aid while hampering their primary source of export income. ”

John McGuirk writing on the FI Blog, September 9th 2005

Perhaps the good farmers of Ireland (and indeed everyone else dependent on the rural economy) ought to know just what JMG thinks.

Of course, we also got gems like this:

“The Airport is a place where people sometimes have to spend hours waiting on a flight, – indeed they go to the Airport in order to board Aircraft, – sometimes for long journeys, – aboard which smoking is also banned. Thankfully, I am not a heavy smoker, and can quite easily go for four or five hours without a ciggarette. However, for the signifigant portion of the population for whom a ciggarette before a flight is an absolute neccessity, this decision amounts to tyranny.

Tomorrow morning I will be telephoning the Airport to complain about this proposed move, and to request information on the reasoning behind it. If it goes head, it will constitute a groosly unjust infringement on the freedom of a minority of the population. They had better have a good reason.
I will, of course, provide our readers with updates on the situation as I get information.

POSTED BY JOHN MCGUIRK AT 6:33 PM”

History, alas, does not record what became of the Dublin ’05 Fag Rising.

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5. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

It would be the same one!

The Airport… capital A… the Aircraft… capital A… The ciggarette (sic)…

that’s a gem, EWI…

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6. EWI - March 26, 2008

What a trawl through buried treasures!

“It’s London!!!
This is great news for Ireland. We will surely benfit from the influx of tourist money in the run-up to the games.
Congratulations to Lord Coe and the bid team.
POSTED BY JOHN MCGUIRK AT 1:01 PM COMMENT (0) | TRACKBACK (0) ”

Yes, indeed. Brings a tear of nostalgia to my eye.

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7. EWI - March 26, 2008

“Who’s funding the Iraqi insurgency??

Obviously, they have many sources of funding, but you’ll never believe their new one:

It is, in fact, the European far-left. The kind of people who can largely be found at indymedia. (Though, obviously, most Indymedia users are not quite that nutty)

Let me repeat that.

Western European leftist groups are raising money for the insurgency in Iraq […]

Unbelievable.

Hat tip: Vodkapundit
POSTED BY JOHN MCGUIRK AT 6:47 PM”

(4th July 2005)

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8. Dec - March 26, 2008

WBS, haven’t seen the Bertie/Enda poster yet so I can’t comment, though the description you give of it makes it sound very odd. i would imagine that there are two reasons for the Creigton poster.

1. To flush her out in the debate. Of the newly elected TDs in the dail two in particular come over as somewhat arrogant and are very dismissive on subjects they feel they know a lot about and are obviously secure in their beliefs.The two are Creighton and Varadkar. I would imagine that an ideal situation for the No camp and in particular spokepersons for Libertas to nudge on would be radio and TV debates with they appearing as the calm, fact based, concerned, non-interested citizens against a fumilating, preaching pup of a politican. That may be the idea of the Creighton poster, and I suspect one of the reasons why FG have kept Creighton only doing YFG meetings in relation to the Lisbon Reform Treaty. For instance FG ahve used Billy Timmins, Alan Dukes and even John Cushnahan on the public debates held by the Forum for Europe but no platform for one of the bigger Europhiles in the shape of Lucinda.

2. Libertas want the publicity. No one is clear what Libertas long term objective is. I suspect that may become a political party, with the economics of the PDs but, and this would be different, the nationalism of SF. Their Lisbon campaign could be nothing more than a marketing stratedgy and indeed their No position maybe founded on nothing more than an obvious recognised gap. If so their campaign is nothing more than a Libertas branding so as long as they are in the news they are succeeding.

Perhaps if their is a stratedgy it maybe nothing more mysterious than “Attack, Attack, Attack”. This can work as the opposing position may never be able to articulate its message.

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9. EWI - March 26, 2008

but, and this would be different, the nationalism of SF.

Not gonna happen. One only has to look down through the list of Anglophiles and US Republican hangers-on to realise that the acrobatics involved in reconciling these positions with any permutation of Irish nationalism would be too much for any credibility with the public.

As an example, investigating ‘certain’ persons’ views on Israelis and their Lebanese hired thugs murdering Irish soldiers on UN duty.

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10. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

Dec I’d entirely agree with your point 2, but, I’d also take EWI’s point about them being so far from a nationalist position that its impossible to see them assuming that other than for tactical reasons. These are dyed in the wool free marketeers.

More McGurk. It could be a column…

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11. Paddy Matthews - March 26, 2008

From today’s Irish Times (referred to on this thread on p.ie:

THE HEAD of a group campaigning for a No vote in the Lisbon Treaty has withdrawn from the next session of the Forum on Europe in protest at being asked to share a platform with Sinn Féin.

Declan Ganley, the founder of Libertas, was due to speak on the economic implications of the treaty at the next plenary session of the forum on April 3rd.

The group expressed “dismay” yesterday that it was being asked to share the platform with former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland and a representative of Sinn Féin. It objects in particular to Sinn Féin’s involvement.

It claimed that in sharing a platform with Sinn Féin, the only Oireachtas party campaigning for a No vote, that the views of both organisations would be perceived as being one and the same.

Libertas spokesman John McGuirk said the group wanted to “make it absolutely clear that Declan Ganley will debate with Peter Sutherland anytime, anywhere.

“This, however, is a very transparent attempt to link our position on the economic implications of the treaty with that of Sinn Féin, and it is something that we did not agree to,” he said.

However, the Forum on Europe pointed out that the format of its plenary sessions had shifted from time to time and, in the past, plenary sessions, had featured speakers from both sides.

Good to see McGuirk earning his crust.

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12. Stíofán - March 26, 2008

Whatever about the blatant lie “Lucinda and Fine Gael favour a militarised, federal Europe…” from their statement, you have to ask wheather flippant, throaway comments made several years ago being dug up and taken out of context (she was talking about the need fro US intervention in response to Kosovo, apparently). These sort of tactics is a depressing realisation of how American our politics has become.

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13. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

Anyone note how Libertas refused to share the same stage as Sinn Féin? Now their excuse is that they didn’t want their ‘different’ problems with the EU to be missed, but…

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14. Conor McCabe - March 26, 2008

“Perhaps if their is a strategy it maybe nothing more mysterious than “Attack, Attack, Attack”. This can work as the opposing position may never be able to articulate its message.”

Can I offer a suggestion here? Maybe, just maybe, the problem with their campaign is that, well, it’s shit.

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15. smiffy - March 26, 2008

Conor wins!

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16. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

This sounds like carping, but I’d like to know who put together the billboards. The design is fairly clunky (and yes, I do have some knowledge of this area, it’s not an off-the-cuff attack).

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17. Paddy Matthews - March 26, 2008

This sounds like carping, but I’d like to know who put together the billboards. The design is fairly clunky (and yes, I do have some knowledge of this area, it’s not an off-the-cuff attack).

I saw the Ahern-Kenny billboard “in the flesh” for the first time today and it struck me as being pretty unfocused and ineffective.

I could have done better myself (confine the photo to Ahern, add an “Ahern proposed as new EU president” newspaper headline, and keep the “Lisbon: Good for him – bad for you” tagline).

Much more effective as an ad hominem attack if that’s the way they want to go – especially post-Gráinne Carruth.

But, hey, someone’s getting paid by Libertas for this stuff…

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18. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

Hmmm… but who Paddy? Who? 🙂

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19. Paddy Matthews - March 26, 2008

If Libertas get in touch you have my email. Payment in €100 notes only (no sterling)… 🙂

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20. WorldbyStorm - March 26, 2008

Consider it done!

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21. mirage28 - March 26, 2008

The billboards were probably designed by David Cochrane or John McGuirk!

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22. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2008

Were they now… hmmm squared…

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23. EWI - March 27, 2008

Anyone note how Libertas refused to share the same stage as Sinn Féin? Now their excuse is that they didn’t want their ‘different’ problems with the EU to be missed, but…

I’m just still chuckling at the thought that Libertas supporter ‘Y’ has been having to share the pages of the same rag as ‘X’, a journalist who was denounced as a threat to the country by yet another Libertasee ‘Z’ (a former Justic Minister), aan indictment that ‘Y’ agreed with loudly on his one-time blog.

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24. EWI - March 27, 2008

Anyone note how Libertas refused to share the same stage as Sinn Féin?

Unsurprising, given the Anglophile (Toryphile is maybe a better description!) roster behind this little operation.

Note also that from what David Cochrane has stated over on p.ie, McGuirk is ’employed’ not by Libertas but by a third-party PR firm. The shuffling of money around the Libertas campaign is a topic worthy of attention, I think. I realise that Someone has the resources to hire as much legal muscle as he likes, but surely the Phoenix, say, has the cajones to take up this intriguing issue…?

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25. Alan E - March 27, 2008

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26. WorldbyStorm - March 27, 2008

You see? You see? This is where this sort of thing goes… 🙂

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27. FineGaelinsider - May 5, 2008

The main concern in äfine Gael is tha the personal relationship beween John McGuirk and Lucinda Creighton will come to dominate the agenda relating to the treaty.

Prior to her election Lucinda Creighton appointed John McGuirk onto her Strategy Committee (seperate from the DSE Constituency committee) while John was a) still a member of FF, b) a paid employee and member of the Green Party in Louth. Shortly after this, Mr. McGuirk came under investigation by the YFG National Executive and in turn by the FG Disciplinary Committee. Where it gets complicated is when the Discplinary Committee are split on whether to charge McGuirk or not. It was widly believed in FG circles that Lucinda persuaded Sean McKiernan to find in favour of McGuirk (see the list of donors to her campaign in the IT this week and you will see his name) and the inexplicable fact that Mckiernan had two votes just because he was Chair. Prior to this the General Secretary was involved and, apparantly, asked Lucinda to withdraw McGuirk form ANY involvement from her campaign as it was damaging the party at a youth level.

When elected, Lucinda did drop John and now the bad blood id evident in the Libertas campaign against her and FG in general by Libertas when in fact libertas should be attacking the government partys.

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28. smiffy - May 5, 2008

That’s a shame. I was hoping that there was some unresolved (or even resolved!) sexual tension playing out between them that was at the heart of the dispute. They could have been a latter-day Hepburn and Tracey in a wannabe neocon screwball comedy.

Anyway, fun as the gossip is, it isn’t really that relevant to the substance of the debate on the Treaty. Or, indeed, to the motivation and tactics as Libertas, except in a rather superficial way.

Thanks for the info, though.

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29. Paddy Matthews - May 5, 2008

It was widly believed in FG circles that Lucinda persuaded Sean McKiernan to find in favour of McGuirk (see the list of donors to her campaign in the IT this week and you will see his name) and the inexplicable fact that Mckiernan had two votes just because he was Chair.

Wasn’t McKiernan also involved – perhaps on the margins – with the ‘Tute?

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30. WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2008

Interesting that there would be a crossover between the ‘Tute and the FG Young Turks (albeit not entirely directly). Cui bono? Why everyone involved!

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31. joemomma - May 5, 2008

“b) a paid employee and member of the Green Party in Louth”

I very much doubt that he was ever a member of the Green Party, but I did hear that he did some paid work for Mark Dearey in Louth.

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32. Paddy Matthews - May 5, 2008

FineGaelInsider:

Prior to her election Lucinda Creighton appointed John McGuirk onto her Strategy Committee (seperate from the DSE Constituency committee) while John was a) still a member of FF, b) a paid employee and member of the Green Party in Louth. Shortly after this, Mr. McGuirk came under investigation by the YFG National Executive and in turn by the FG Disciplinary Committee.

I’m assuming that this is a mistype for FG – I thought that McGuirk had been run out of both FF and Ógra FF well before the election and surely YFG would have no control over him if he was still a FFer.

McGuirk is looking good to have gone through more political parties in 4 or 5 years than Eoghan Harris has in 40.

Smiffy:

I was hoping that there was some unresolved (or even resolved!) sexual tension playing out between [McGuirk and Lucinda] that was at the heart of the dispute.

Well, that’s a picture to erase from the mind’s eye, isn’t it? You are one sick puppy, Smiffy. 🙂

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33. anglocelt - May 13, 2008

“Wasn’t McKiernan also involved – perhaps on the margins – with the ‘Tute?”

Sean McKiernan was at the founding dinner of the Freedom Institute; so a founding member I guess. He was considered too off-the-wall, even for the ‘tute. He liked to induldge in refering to the “natives” in Cavan as “peasants” and the usual f*ck poor people chit-chat that the right wing neo-Cons in the Freedom Institute thought made them feel credible. In fairness, at least they grew up and went into the real world as bankers. Not sure about McKiernan. Don’t think he even went to University, at least not for more than four weeks. Only in Cavan could he be elected, even if it was by one vote after four failed attempts.

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34. WorldbyStorm - May 13, 2008

Interesting, the ‘tute was always seen as more PD oriented in the public imagination, but clearly not…

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35. Paddy Matthews - May 14, 2008

Only in Cavan could he be elected, even if it was by one vote after four failed attempts.

Ach, don’t be too hard on yourselves. He may have managed to wangle a co-option to the County Council, but he has still to get past the “peasantry” for real next year.

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36. WorldbyStorm - May 14, 2008

Perhaps Cavan CC will institute a sort of mini-Bastille Day celebrations in the wake of those elections…

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37. anglocelt - May 16, 2008

“he has still to get past the “peasantry” for real next year”

I think a lot of people are looking for a chance on to vote on nobobys like Sean McKiernan who stay around youth politics for years – like a clog in a sewage pipe – getting elected to MickyMouse positions, then inflicting themselves on the public by the backdoor who aren’t as stupid as the fat cats (pigs) like to think they are. Seriously, if YFG rejects you 90% in a National Chairman election, and Cavan FG reject you three times you have to bea complete non-entity who NOBODY likes.

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38. WorldbyStorm - May 16, 2008

Harsh words, anglocelt… 🙂

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39. Paddy Matthews - May 16, 2008

anglocelt:
I think a lot of people are looking for a chance on to vote on nobobys like Sean McKiernan who stay around youth politics for years

I’d say most people neither know nor care about the finer points of youth politics. But McKiernan from what I’ve seen of him online and in the occasional appearance in your own pages 😉 comes across as being a gom. It will be interesting to see how he fares on the ground next year.

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40. WorldbyStorm - May 16, 2008

It’s a horrible business, youth politics. Hardly worth the effort. That said, isn’t all politics? 🙂

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41. Irish Left Review - Win or Lose . . . What Happens Next After Lisbon? - June 4, 2008

[…] newer elements on or just tipping the other side. Granted none of this is clear cut. As noted on Cedar Lounge Revolution, Lucinda Creighton has been working on the campaign with some enthusiasm. But mixed messages are […]

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42. Ganley and the Real Fine Gael? - Page 16 - February 18, 2013

[…] […]

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