So after two centuries of struggle for liberation from British colonialism, the Irish Republic, in saying Yes to the Lisbon Treaty, finally capitulated to EU neo-imperialism.
This is a sorry outcome for a country with a proud history of resistance, including rejection of the Nice Treaty and of the original EU Constitution. The long-term implications are dire.
The referendum result, however, was not a surprise. Ireland had long ago accepted the euro, a major step towards domination by the EU. The Irish economy had been mismanaged and exposed to the toxic effects of capitalism, borrowing 25 billion euros a year, with a 9.8 per cent drop in GDP in 2009 – the largest fall in the industrialised world, according to the OECD. The “Celtic Tiger” had become dependent on the EU and the USA.
These two blocs campaigned together to protect tens of billions of dollars and “send a message to American boardrooms” – as the Irish Business & Employers’ Confederation put it. Ironically, given that the economy was heading for collapse on an Icelandic scale, membership of the Eurozone seems not to have helped one jot. The claims of the EU to create prosperity are patently false.
To the joy of Gordon Brown, pressure by American IT corporations, as well as the likes of BP and meddling EU politicians (flown in courtesy of Ryanair) helped to sap the will of the Irish to hold out. The Treaty was euphemistically billed as a “reform plan” – a mere “streamlining” exercise. Legally dubious protocols on neutrality and abortion swayed many.
But excuses are no excuse. This was the Irish people’s choice, and they will have to live with the consequences. More significant than the seduction and the bullying tactics, there was an unprincipled alliance of most unions (though not the Irish Unite T&G) with the multinational and bourgeois interests.
All the arguments for Irish independence from Europe had been well rehearsed since debate on Maastricht in 1992. But in the end tired resignation and wishful thinking lost the argument – from those who said they wanted to vote No but didn’t dare for fear of unemployment (bankers were observed in the queue for jobs at M&S) to those who hoped that Lisbon, with its Charter of Fundamental Rights, might offer some kind of nirvana where workers’ rights would miraculously trump the drive to profits.
The result is that Ireland has held its last referendum on anything of political significance. It has become a province of the EU, with almost no voting powers. Speaking in Dublin on 9 September, British MP Gisela Stuart warned: “Lisbon does not give you, as a citizen, the means to control the executive or the politicians who decide on your behalf, and that’s the hurdle it falls on…The nature of democracy is really at stake.” She should know – she helped draw up the original constitution.
The question now is: Could this happen in Britain? The threat cannot be underestimated. Ireland’s decision has brought the nightmare closer.
Britain’s path will be far from easy. There are pressures around the world – from the oil states and from the US – to exclude sterling in favour of the Eurozone, Russia, Brazil, and the Far East.
Though there is yet no clear consensus in Britain for leaving the EU, in a recent poll 84 per cent wanted a referendum on Lisbon. All parliaments are for capitalism. British workers cannot rely on so-called eurosceptic alliances, whether Labour or Tory. Patriotism and democracy, in the last analysis, rest with the working class.