Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Irish Referendum and Libertas' new European movement

The following speech was delivered by Libertas Chairman Declan Ganley on the 11th November 2008 at a dinner in honour of Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

Mr. President, Madam First Lady, Mr Ambassador, Ladies and Gentleman, good evening, and thank you for coming;

When the current President, Nicolas Sarkozy, visited Ireland in the summer, after our referendum, he was outspokenly on the minority losing side. Yet we in Ireland ensured he talked freely to those he wanted to meet, including those who had won and represented the majority. You, as leader of the country hosting the next Presidency of Europe, from January, have had more difficulty, but happily you join us for this event tonight which is immensely important for my guests and for myself and for the majority of the Irish electorate.

We gather here this evening, Mr. President, from across Ireland and many nations of Europe, in your honour and with great pleasure we add our voices to those who have welcomed both you and your lovely wife to our country. We greatly appreciate your friendship. We honour you for your record.

We thank you for your decency towards us, the dignity in which you hold our Democracy, and the undoubted respect you have for our independence of thought and of action. In the wild days of storm and stress that have beset not just this country but Europe and wider world since our summer referendum, our attitude has been a national strength to us in which we hope you join. It is our determination to share that spirit within Europe.

Because of your leadership, your country is a better, freer, more prosperous and peaceful place. And you, at its heart, have a clear record of standing by your principles. One of these has been that you have been a friend to those who love democracy and freedom.

You have been a consistent voice against tyranny and oppression, immediately appealing to the Irish mind and heart, and for this we feel honoured that you are here tonight. You have come here tonight because unlike some voices we have recently heard from Brussels, you value democracy above all else.

You heard the voice of the Irish people in June, and you have come here to respect and heed it, and for that we are grateful.

You have come here also, because like us, you have come to realise that Europe is being undermined by an elite group in Brussels who are on the verge of abandoning permanently Europe’s experiment with democracy. It was the great achievement of the Irish Referendum Campaign to lay bare democratic deficit that currently lays at Brussels core. To highlight this deficit was our main purpose and it remains our main purpose now. The response of Europe to the straightforward sovereign declaration of our people, in rejecting the Lisbon Treaty, was immediate and authoritarian. Leaders in Europe expressed a view that was a denial of the popular vote. It was falsely manufactured by the same elite group and it’s abundantly clear they remain a threat to democracy’s future in Europe.

For much of your life you have watched such threats becoming manifest. They have a simple and suffocating purpose in which the democratic will of free peoples is overridden by elite. Their interest is single-minded and narrow. They pursue versions of progress that suit them and keep them in power. Their version of progress is made up of vague promises of an illusory ‘better future’. That future belongs to them and is exclusive. It does not belong to the people of Europe.

You saw the discontent which that action breeds. You saw its results. You led the fight against it.

Here in Ireland, we became in June the third country democratically to reject the anti-democratic path that our leaders in Brussels have attempted to force upon us.

We rejected a Treaty that would have led us down a path towards rule by bureaucracy. We threw it out. And that part of what we did is over.

We rejected the idea of an unelected President.

We rejected the idea of a Europe directed by periodic prompts from the politicians around whom the bureaucrats were running rings.

Ireland said that it did not want an occasional voice at the table where decisions were made. It wanted the people of Europe to control that table much more directly.

We rejected the idea of our elected Parliament having only token power.

We rejected the idea of placing more power in the hands of a Commission driven by a mixture of private ideologies, a Commission that never needed to answer to the people they ruled.

We did not vote against Europe.

We rejected it because we Irish are truly European, we are European to the Core. We have suffered our own indignities. We have fought for our right to be heard. We know the value of Democracy. As Jefferson said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Vigilance sometimes includes reading the Treaties we are being asked to sign. We knew others in Europe felt the same. We know that people in your country feel the same.

We rejected the Treaty because we did not want the voices of our brothers and sisters in France and the Netherlands be ignored, or see their wishes discarded.

The continued centralization of power in Brussels is not in itself a worthy goal.

We believed that our rights are our own to assert.

That our values are our own to choose.

And that our economies should be free and flexible in order to compete.

We did not reject the idea that together in Europe, we are stronger.

We did not reject your friendship, or the friendship of any nation in the Union.

Our vote should be seen in that light.

It was not a vote to disengage from Europe. It was a vote to change and correct Europe’s course for the better. It was a vote to make Europe legitimate by making it properly democratic.

We need to change the balance in Brussels between the unelected elite and elected representatives.

Further integration is a good and worthy objective, but it needs to be agreed. We, with all the citizens of Europe, must sanction it democratically.

We do not want to see more power given to an organization that has, on so many occasions, shown its contempt for democracy.

The contempt was so great that before a single vote was cast in our referendum, the European Parliament voted not to respect the result. That contempt has continued every day since the vote on June 12th. It is a contempt exemplified by a Commission that has continued to plan the
Treaty’s implementation in defiance of our democratic voice.
That contempt is shown by the Parliament. Its members have called for the investigation of our campaign. They have circulated a Report on the Media. Yet they have never considered calling on the Commission to respect and heed our result. Their view is that any dissent should be crushed. That the voice of the majority be silenced from the airwaves. They believe that self determination is a theoretical right that people can have, but should not use. They believe that Democracy is an more obstacle to be overcome. They act as if they, and not the free peoples of Europe, created our prosperity.

We are told that we should give up more and more vetoes in the name of co-operation. This formula, by definition, leads to coercion.

We are told that we should give up our seat at the commission, while giving the commission more power.

We are told: if you do not do all these things, the consequences will be too terrible to behold. But no one explains this.

We in Ireland, making our democratic decision, have not been influenced by outside interests and organisations. We have simply exercised our democratic right to reject this authoritarian approach. It is though the idea of calling for democratic accountability is a strange un-European and foreign thing to do.

I’d like to remind some that we in Ireland were able to make stands for freedom long before Columbus learned to walk, never mind sail.

In response to any crisis, we are told that if only Brussels had more power, the crisis would be solved. Yet when we work together in a democratic spirit of co-operation, we can and will solve all our problems. Dem
ocracy means compromising, listening to all voices, the submission of power
to the ballot box. And it is a process vastly preferable to the prescriptions Brussels wants us to adopt.

We will not be bullied. We will not allow more power to bigger countries at the expense of smaller nations. Change will not come at the expense of the right of all of Europe’s citizens to hold our law-makers democratically accountable.

Mr. President, that is our position, and I believe it is moral and correct. But it is still not the position of a majority of your colleagues in Europe’s capitals. It will not be their position until the people of Europe force them to adopt it.

We need to create a platform for change from which all of Europe can speak with one voice. There is a need for those of us who hold this view to win a mandate for our position. Across Europe, the voice of the people has been silenced by Governments who feared the consequences of a free vote.

Next June, in the European elections. We have an opportunity to speak with one voice, the voice of the people, the true and unheard voice of Europe.

Whether the language you speak is Irish, English, French, German, Maygar, Italian, Czech, or Polish, we will have the chance to speak together in the only language that some political leaders seem to understand, the language of the ballot box.

Giving people the opportunity to speak will require a pan-European movement and the courage and ambition for our wn change. Building that movement will be hard work, it may even be impossible. But it is the task to which we have set ourselves. And our reason? It is necessary and the people of Europe deserve better than to be treated with contempt by unaccountable elites.

If we succeed, we will win a mandate that will shake the NON-accountable grip of the Brussels elite to its foundations and chart a better course for a new European Renaissance.

The opportunity exists to give the people of Europe a chance to express their hope and vision for a European Union that works for, and listens to, them.

The mandate we seek is a mandate to change Europe, to change it in a way that can address the flaw highlighted by your predecessor President Havel when he once said “Europe speaks to my head but says nothing to my heart”.

I believe that the European Union can attain that heart that it so badly needs.

It is one that can embrace, respect and endear itself to all Europeans. It recognises that democracy is something that unites us all and through which, in dignity, we can work together as one. It is too early to say whether this can be done, Mr. President, but it is not too late to try.

So tonight, I thank you for coming to our country, and honouring us so greatly with your presence. I congratulate and thank you for all you have done for your own country. And I ask you and your people to stand with us and with the majority of the Irish people and in their turn, the majority of The French and Dutch people also.

We are a country of 4 million people, standing against the entire power of the Brussels elite.

We will be bullied, cajoled, hectored, and then bullied some more as they try to force us to bend the knee and bow our heads in contrition for standing up to them.

But we are the Irish and not for the first time in our history, we are willing to stand on principle.

We are willing to fight for our right to say no. We will have the voices of all Europeans listened to and respected.

And we need your help.

For more than a decade, yours has been a voice for democracy, reform, and self-determination.

Yours has been a voice for the rule of law, and for the democratic process.

Yours has been a voice for economic freedom, and for limits on the powers of over-reaching governing bodies. I ask you tonight to stand with Ireland, and to stand with the principles we are fighting to protect.

We have been honoured to have you here this evening, and by your genuine and manifest respect for the dignity and decency of the Irish people.

We are honoured to call you our friend and we hope that the friendship between our two small, but great nations, will endure for many centuries to come.

Thank you and God bless you and the people of The Czech Republic.