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Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Trust me, I'm a Yes campigner"

It may be Thursday already, but it's not too late to tell you about an op-ed by Richard Waghorne in Saturday's Irish Daily Mail, which is important food for thought in the Irish Lisbon debate - now in full swing.

It notes that, while people have been very quick to mock the No campaign for "its various supposed links", little is said about the Yes side. His article has some pretty key revelations about two of the leading Yes campaigners in this year's second referendum.

Firstly, Waghorne notes:

"Concluding, understandably, that they are too discredited to sell the treaty themselves this time, ministers have largely stepped aside in favour of supposedly non-political pro-Lisbon groups. The problem is that the two people heading up the leading two pro-Lisbon front groups set up for this purpose are hopelessly compromised by the very real ghost of their political pasts."

We then learn that Pat Cox, the former President of the European Parliament who has been drafted in to head the 'Ireland for Europe' organisation, is in fact:

"a director of two heavyweight Brussels lobbying firms, one called CAPA and the other called European Integration Solutions. So whatever else happens between now and polling day in six weeks’ time, we are presented with the odd spectacle of a man in the pay of a variety of vested interests heading the chief Yes outfit."

More is to come as it is revealed that neither of Cox's lobbying firms have signed up to the European Commission's voluntary register, which would provide brief details of their workings and an estimate of the amount of cash spent lobbying the EU institutions. The firms are in fact so secretive that they do not even have public websites.

Cox has also been a special advisor to one of the EU Commissioners while retaining his links to these lobbying firms. Waghorne notes that: "In more robust jurisdictions, that would be considered a conflict of interest."

But this is Brussels we're talking about - remember Lord Mandelson's sojourn on a certain aluminium-exporting Russian oligarch's yacht while he was Trade Commissioner?

Waghorne then focuses his attention on another leading Yes campaign group 'We Belong', which is aimed at younger voters. This outfit is headed by Olivia Buckley, who was "central to [former Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's] attempts at media management in the months when he was lying about money lodged in his private account while he was finance minister."

All very unsavoury stuff, I'm sure you will agree.

Today, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has also thrown his hat into the ring, promising €500,000 to the Yes campaign and various PR stunts such as cheaper seats on planes. He has proudly claimed to have read the Treaty - something which PM Brian Cowen and EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy failed to manage first time around.

However, it seems O'Leary may have been 'skimming', if that. Asked by the Irish Daily Mail how the Treaty would affect the EU's Single Market, all he could muster was: "I’m not going to get into explaining the European treaty; go read it yourself."

He went on to pluck some very familiar general arguments out of thin air, such as: "Without Europe and the euro, the Irish economy would be run by our incompetent politicians, our inept civil service and the greedy public sector trade union bosses."

Yet, in the same press conference he readily admits that, if there's a no vote, "I don’t think we’ll get drummed out of the euro." As we've said before, it is highly misleading and patronising to pretend that this is a referendum on being 'in or out' of the EU, or the euro. This is not a question of being "with" or "without" Europe - it is specifically about the kind of Europe we want to see. Even the Editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette felt compelled this week to appeal to campaigners to stop using this kind of "moral blackmail."

(It's also plain wishful thinking to suggest that Lisbon would be the remedy to Ireland's economic ills. Again, as we've pointed out before, any 'EU bailout' would require at the very least the tacit support of German taxpayers, which is simply not forthcoming.)

We've noticed that the 'yes' campaigners are increasingly falling back on these shallow 'in-out' arguments in the absence of anything decent or detailed to say about the actual Treaty.

Very poor effort, people. Very poor.


Anonymous said...

I am not "Garrincha" but his post on Intel's support for the Yes side is worth a view:


Mark said...

eh... you make Waghorne out to be some sort of investigative sleuth. All the information about Pat Cox and Olivia Buckley were in the public arena long ago. This is not new, they're not "revelations".

For example - Here is a quote from the Irish Times, a newspaper often referred to here as pro-Lisbon, about Olivia Buckley...

"In a separate development, PR executive Olivia Buckley, one of two senior executives at Murrays who ran the Lisbon campaign last year, left the company earlier this year and has set up the pro-Lisbon group We Belong. Ms Buckley was also a Fianna Fáil press director from 2002 to 2007."


I wouldn't call myself pro-Libson but I'm anti-spin, if you're going to push an agenda, do so without the ridiculous spin. For God's sake.

Open Europe blog team said...

Fair enough, Mark. Point taken, and thanks for the link.

But whether they're "revelations" or not, it still stinks. And worth repeating as often as possible.

VNTL said...

I have to say it is a revelation to a lot of us in Ireland as we don't necessarily read the Irish Times because of its bias. Most people don't know about Pat Cox's lobbyist interests and wouldn't it be a good idea if RTE Prime Time did an investigation into his 'affairs' as a kind of balance to the hatchet job on Declan Ganley.

VNTL said...

BTW (By the way) would you like to do an interview with VNTL at some stage re the NO vote in Ireland?

Open Europe blog team said...

Sure - give us a call 0207 197 2333

VNTL said...

Will do.