Sunday, July 27, 2008

on passing by- again

The Lisbon Treaty. Yes or No?.
I had intended to try and give an in depth analysis of the Treaty but to be absolutely honest, after studying it for a month I just find the whole thing totally impenetrable. This may or may not be accidental but unless you have access to, and understanding of , all the treaties which have gone before I am at a loss as to how anybody could make any sense of it at all.
I did expect it to be couched in a semi legalese form, as these things always are, but it is just mind boggling how ordinary people are supposed to interpret something like this. To help the ordinary joe soap there are explanations provided for the different articles, such as the following:
Explanation on Article 16-Freedom to Conduct a Business.
“This Article is based on Court of Justice case law which has recognised freedom to exercise an economic or commercial activity ( see judgements of 14 May, 1974, Case 4/73 Nold [1974] ECR 491, paragraph 14 on the grounds, and of 27 September 1979, Case 230/78 SpA Eridiana and others [1979] ECR 2749, paragraphs 20 and 31 of the grounds and freedom of contract (see inter alia Sukkerfabriken Nykobing judgement, Case 151/78 [1979] paragraph 19 of the grounds, and judgement of 5 October 1999, C-240/97, Spain v Commission [1999[ ECR I-6571, paragraph 99 of the grounds and Article 119(1) and (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which recognises free competition. Of course, this right is to be exercised with respect for Union law and national legislation. It may be subject to the limitations provided for in Article 52(1) of the Charter”.
And that’s just the flippin explanation!

It continues on in similar vein for about a hundred pages and most of it seems like gobbledegook.
The Government and most of the opposition parties are asking us to vote yes and yet they seem unable or unwilling to explain exactly what it is that we are signing up to. The first piece of psychology in their armoury seems to be their refusal to even call the treaty by its correct name. In continually referring to it as the Reform Treaty it makes it sound like we are just agreeing to a bit of tidying up and nothing more. The chief government spokesperson, Dick Roche, Junior Minister for European Affairs, does not appear capable or willing to tell us exactly what the treaty is going to do for us. In any interview I have seen or heard with Mr Roche I have come away with nothing except a growing dislike of the way he treats anyone who is opposed to the treaty. In his usual condescending manner he starts as he normally does by thanking the interviewer for asking a very pertinent question, to which the public is entitled to an answer, and then he goes off on tangent and forgets to answer the original question. Following an answer from the other person he tells how he respects the other persons view but regrets to inform him that he is wrong. This would be fine if he continued and told us why the other person was wrong but he won’t. He seems totally involved in a campaign of negativity towards the No voters instead of engaging in proper discussion and outlining the positives if we vote Yes. Maybe there are no real positives?
A large part of Mr Roche’s efforts appear to be concentrated on scaring us into voting yes. He recently told the Seanad that the European Union had given Europe the longest period of peace, tranquillity and progress in human history. “ How is it “ he asked “that any person with a sense of history could seriously destroy that. I do not understand the thinking”. Even by Mr Roche’s usual flowery standards this was indeed scary stuff, informing us by implication that if we had the gall to vote No then we could say goodbye forever to this peace, tranquillity and progress. Vote No and look forward to World War Three.
Bertie Ahern was singing from the same hymn sheet. A No vote would be “ a disaster for the country” and would have “ major repercussions that would do immense damage to Ireland”.
Gay Mitchell from Fine Gael told us that a Yes vote would enable a proper unification of Europe, only this time without the panzers and the gas chambers. Back to the world war scenario again.
Mary Harney tells us that unless we vote Yes all our foreign investment will dry up.
And yet not four years ago France and Holland voted no to essentially the same treaty. Have they been banished?. Have they lost foreign investment? Have they lost influence in Europe? No, they have not.

So what is going to change?
Well one of the points that Dick Roche made that was we were going to have more democracy as we were going to get an EU President. Unfortunately he forgot to mention that this is only a figurehead position and has no real powers. Some democracy.
Voting Yes means we agree to a constitutional amendment which allows us to ratify this treaty, but it also gives our permission to the Government to make future decisions on Europe without a referendum.
If we do ratify it we lose our permanent Irish commissioner and go onto a rota system.

Some of the trades unions are advocating a No vote but its hard to tell if this is a genuine feeling or just posturing.
Farmers are advocating a No vote but this seems more to show their anger at world trade talks than a genuine grievance with the treaty.
The main political parties are advocating a Yes vote. Unfortunately most of their public utterances seem more like blackmail than positive arguments.
If we reject the treaty it will come around again with changes. On the other hand if we accept the treaty we are stuck with it. It is, for all intents and purposes, irreversible.

So, the Lisbon Treaty. Yes or No?

Well I am not going to tell you how to vote, just urge you to actually use your vote.
For my own part I feel very reticent about voting yes if all the Government can do to explain the treaty is a poster which says “ Good for Ireland, Good for Europe, Vote Yes”. Not enough lads, not enough.
All for now. Mike Edmonds.


Reading for work and for study has definitely interfered with my reading for pleasure lately….I only managed one good book this month, but it was an absolutely excellent one. Having seen and enjoyed the film of “The Remains if the Day”, although not experienced the book, I was keen to see what Kazuo Ishiguro would be like in print. “Never let me go” (Paperback: Faber and Faber: 11.25 euro) did not disappoint. I had heard Ryan Turbridy describing the book on his review a few weeks ago, and although I am not really a fan of his book club, I was intrigued by the impact he said this novel had made on him.

It tells the story of memory and how our pasts make us what we are. It is narrated by Kathy H., now in her thirties and reflecting on her childhood and early adulthood. Kathy’s narrative voice is straightforward and deceptively simple as her tale unwinds, in terms of the major friendships she has formed, and draws us inexorably into her world. From a childhood spent in an apparently idyllic boarding school we see how Kathy makes her way in a strange, inverted world as a “carer”. Ishiguro creates a universe that is both familiar and horrifically alien- I was totally absorbed in the story of Kathy and her friends and like many of the best books I have ever read I am really reluctant to say a lot more about it in terms of the plot as it would be a great pity to give it away. I found it to be one of the most beautiful and poignant descriptions of humanity that I have ever encountered and I recommend it highly.

On a different note….I went o Russborough in April to see the wonderful “Sephira” in concert. I had seen them there last September so knew we were in for a treat and once more they were wonderful, particularly given the sumptuous setting of the saloon. An added bonus was the return of the art collection which coincidentally had occurred a couple of days before the concert- they certainly added to the ambiance.

Sisters Ruth and Joyce, accompanied by their pianist Brian were in great form and gave a lovely performance. The girls have beautiful voices, and gave good renditions of many of their own compositions from their album ”Angel”. Their violin playing is however magnificent, and was one of the highlights, particularly some of the classical pieces and “She moved through the fair”. The finale was also the pinnacle of the performance for me- I particularly enjoyed their tangos when I saw them last year and they did a fabulous back-to-back piece to finish off- it makes your senses tingle!

I think they are planning to come back to Russborough again, so if you missed them last time, make sure you catch them next……..As a venue it really is excellent, so fair play to Eric, Joan and the gang at the house for opening the doors to such delightful musical experiences- I am already looking forward to the next one!


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