Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Lisbon campaign is another bitter betrayal


Whether the Lisbon Treaty is accepted by the Irish public or not, one thing is clear – the Government campaign in its favour is already one of the most deeply dishonest in Irish history.

The revelation that the Government has conspired with foreign politicians to deceive its own electorate speaks of profound betrayal. For months, ministers have been calling for a fair campaign based on the facts of the treaty itself.

Now we know that all the while the very same ministers have been collluding in a campaign of deliberate misinformation. That the Irish people should be the victims of a dishonest alliance between their own govenrment and outside powers is something many will find very hard to forgive quickly.

As for the Lisbon Treaty itself, voters will now find it very difficult to trust a single word the Govenrment says in its defence. At each stage, the aim has not been to inform the electorate but to deceive it.

Instead of scheduling polling day for October,which would allow the country to come to grips with the treaty?s byzantine complexity, the Government has specifically chosen a date to capitalise on the artificial uncertainty this premature vote creates. Even the precise timing has been cynically manipulated to catch the other side off-guard. This is not just poor form; it is a thoroughly undemocratic way to conduct what is supposed to be a free and fair vote.

These low tricks are not just a case of using dark arts for narrow tactical advantage, they are deliberate lies about crucial matters of the Irish national interest.

One reason there is so much understable uncertainty in the electorate over the Lisbon Treaty is that it might mean we lose control over our military commitments and that our low corporate tax rate might be abolished by Brussels. Now we know that on both counts the Government’s conspiracy has specifically sought to conceal the truth.

We are voting earlier than would ordinarily be expected so that voters will not have a chance to see new defence developments in the EU that officials expect from the French EU presidency later this year. Opinion divides on the merits and demerits of Irish neutrality, but that question should be decided by Irish voters, not slipped through on false premises.

Today’s revelations also prove that neither our Government nor the French Government can be trusted when they say that well-known plans to introduce tax harmonisation have been sidelined.

This all amounts to a shocking culture of lying in the highest echelons of Irish politics. Deliberate lying about vital matters of Irish national interest should be unreservedly condemned by those in favour of Lisbon as much as by those against. The political culture in which this is possible is the proof, also, of just how corrosive the departing Taoiseach’s lying has been for public life.

Many people have not yet reached an opinion about the Lisbon Treaty. That decision must be taken on the full facts and not on a shimmering mirage of dishonesty.

Nor should we be afraid to consider our relationship with the EU anew. We have been well served by EU membership in the past. We are under no obligation, though, to vote blindly for whatever is put before us simply for that reason.

If there is a case for the Lisbon Treaty on the merits of the actual document, the Government should make it – and should be able to make it easily and persuasively. That they have not will lead many to wonder why a campaign based on proven dishonesty should be given the benefit of the doubt when such crucial issues are at stake.

Editorial Comment
From the DAILY MAIL, Ireland (page 14, Monday 14 April 2008)