Ógra Shinn Féin
The campaign surrounding the up-coming Lisbon Treaty referendum has been rather enlightening, provided you have the patience for the at times mind numbing legalistic jargon. Indeed many of the more illuminating points have not arisen in the little debate that has taken place but in the side politics of the campaigns.
When examining how the Treaty has played out, one must start and look at the attitude of the establishment parties. For Fianna Fáil the campaign has been a shambles. Badly briefed ministers have proceeded to fumble their way through a belated campaign. It would appear that in the same manner that Sinn Féin were caught ‘star gazing’ (as one delegate put it at the Ard Fheis) at the formation of a power sharing executive in the six counties at last year’s general election, so Fianna Fáil have been so self involved with their coronation of their beloved Biffo they have taken their eye of the ball.
Indeed the ball hasn’t even come into the Fianna Fáil campaign. Their entire parliamentary party has been so caught up in insulting the No side, their Tanaiste Mary Coughlan doesn’t even realise that each country only has one commissioner at the commission table. Indeed the pages of the Irish Times and the Irish Independent have been jammed with articles in which Fianna Fail (in the form of Thomas Byrne), the Labour Party (in the form of Eamon Gilmore), Fine Gael (in the form of Gay Mitchell) and IBEC (representing business interests) have all had their say, not as one might think in engaging in debate rather taking their chance to attack Sinn Féin.
They don’t address real concerns such as the loss of a commissioner. This is the case for all member states however with the loss of vetoing power in the council of ministers in over 60 areas and a reduction in Ireland voting strength in the Qualified Majority votes. All the while, larger countries increase their power in the council. Let us see the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and IBEC address these issues. Explain why these changes are good for IRELAND.
The new sheriff amongst the Fianna Fáil ‘cowboys’, Brian Cowan has recently lambasted the campaigns of Fine Gael and Labour and I have to say with good reason. Sunday’s Red C/ Sunday Business Post poll that showed the gap narrowing between the yes and the no side, also saw a majority of Labour party voters opposed to the Treaty and around half the Fine Gael voters questioned also opposing the forth coming Treaty. These were perhaps the most interesting of all the results released.
For the Labour Party acceptance of this Treaty is just further confirmation of their move to the centre of Irish politics and their abandoning of the left. Their Treaty campaign has descended into farce. Be it Pronsias de Rossa, (that most reliable of all ‘stickies’) rejecting a motion to respect the Irish vote in the European Parliament or their ridiculous campaign posters that are merely aimed at shoring up their latest flagging leader and promoting councillors ahead of local elections next year, the Labour campaign has flopped. God help poor Joe Costello (Labour’s campaign director) with a party that is fundamentally opposed to the Treaty behind him, he really doesn’t stand a chance. Indeed the Labour party in the 26 counties is rapidly approaching its ‘clause four’ moment in much the same way the British Labour Party did in 1994. With an internal group currently examining its future positioning, I fear the Labour party may well join Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the PDs on the right of Irish politics. If it does come about, it’ll be a sad day indeed.
From another view point one must say that the narrowing of the gap in the last two weeks is a credit to all who are working on the No campaign. Quite frankly with the media coverage as biased as it has been, the polls really shouldn’t be close. From a Sinn Féin point of view, the Lisbon campaign has allowed activists to return to where they are happiest on the streets, and in communities not in the toxic atmosphere that swept over the party in the aftermath of the general election. The party has been re-building from the ground up and the Lisbon referendum has allowed the cobwebs to be swept away.
Having attended numerous public debates and meetings it must be said that the referendum campaign will stand the party in good stead in the long run. A No vote is now essential. The campaign- led primarily by Mary Lou McDonald, the Leinster House team and Padraig Mac Lochlainn has seen some fresh faces make quite an impact namely Eoin O Broin, (a former Ógra National Co-ordinator) and Louth county councillor Tomas Sharkey (who has ruffled feathers in Louth county council and on Questions and Answers) -even gained some back handed complements from RTE’s the Week in Politics on Sunday night. Surely a first.
Let us hope that come Friday June 13th , when the votes are counted that Brian Cowan, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore will be having a Friday the 13th they would rather forget!
Vote No! 2 Lisbon.