Ireland and the EU: Fear and loathing in Brussels and Dublin…

The panic reaction of the political establishment in Ireland and in the European Institutions, to the idea that a new Referendum might have to be held to amend the Lisbon Treaty, speaks volumes of the fear and loathing informing the psychology of these right-wing politicians.

Fear and loathing of the fact that ordinary citizens might have to have a vote on an issue that is of crucial importance to them rather than be left up to conniving neoliberal political cabals.

We need to look behind the headlines that emerged from last week’s EU Summit in Brussels. The outcome was labelled as agreement on a permanent rescue mechanism for Member States in serious economic crisis. It would be more truthful to say that it was a rescue mission for German and other big banks and financial institutions which lent out massive amounts of funds during the years of relative boom and now stand exposed.

These banks and speculators of various kinds took the massive profits which they made in “the good times” but at the first sign of the bubble they created, bursting, they want the State to step in and underwrite their gambling and speculation by transferring the cost to the EU taxpayers. They are supported in this by all the governments of the European Union, the EU Commission and all the major political groups represented in the European Parliament and the first “rescue mission” will be to keep them afloat as we’ve seen in Ireland.

“The last thing we need is another Referendum on Lisbon” was the general tenor of the comment emerging from right-wing political parties in this State. There is a palpable fear within the establishment of having to go before the people with a new proposition dealing with the Lisbon Treaty and the reasons for this are not difficult to fathom.

For a start, all those establishment organisations and political parties that campaigned for a “Yes” vote in the second Lisbon Referendum would have to explain why the promises they expensively advertised in the course of that campaign have been vaporised in the short space of one year. “Vote Yes for Jobs” was one of the most prominent. That certainly looks like a very sick joke in the wake of the unemployment numbers exploding in the direction of half a million in this State.

Another much repeated mantra was that a “No” vote would “marginalise us” and we were urged to vote “Yes” to be at “the heart of Europe.” Well, the biggest financial institutions in Europe have truly marginalised this State in recent weeks. Backed by the EU Commission, they set crucifying interest rates for government borrowing.

It is clear that Taoiseach Brian Cowen, aided and abetted by Fine Gael, will attempt to foist whatever has been agreed among EU leaders on the Irish people without consulting them in a Referendum. The excuse will be is that the proposals “do not infringe sovereignty’”by giving new competences on to the EU. This is completely false.

The whole thrust of the “rescue” package is to set up a mechanism whereby individual member States can be badgered and bullied into accepting new versions of the “austerity” programmes already being implemented in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. The demand will be that sharper and deeper cuts are made in public expenditure and in the living standards of the working people, the unemployed and the poor in order to ‘satisfy the markets’ and convince them to continue lending money at somewhat lower interest rates.

The drawing up of the new mechanism is designed to be a big stick to force the implementation of more savage cuts in services and attacks on workers’ rights and pension rights. By any standards this is an attack on the democratic rights of the Irish people.

Should a Referendum be held in the next six months, it would be a “proxy” for the General Election which a majority of the country desperately demand but a terrified Fianna Fail and Green Party deny them. That the crisis and the policies of the current government would dominate such a Referendum campaign would be absolutely correct and not “irrelevant” as Lisbon advocates would allege.

Such a Referendum campaign would have to see a profound debate on the Irish and world financial systems. Questions raised by the Left would be why faceless individuals in the boardrooms of major banks and hedge fund gamblers are allowed to hold entire societies to ransom for private profit. Why this fundamentally anti democratic set up is endorsed by the whole of the political establishment and media.

The Government should be warned. Any attempt to get past us on this will be relentlessly exposed and challenged in every way possible.

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November 2010