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.