As well as putting his foot in it by saying that 95% of the rest of Europe would have voted against the Lisbon Treaty if they'd been given the chance, and that most heads of state are glad they didn't have to actually ask the people, the Irish EU Commissioner has also proudly defended referendums in the democratic process. He said:
"I've never been ashamed to stand up for the way we do our business here. We do it by referendum. That's democracy."
According to a different source at the Irish Times his words were:
“We might not like the result on occasion . . . but that’s democracy and we should not be ashamed of it."
He also said there had been much greater debate in Ireland than in any other member state -(something we at OE have recently pointed out in the FT and on our blog) He said:
“Everybody says we do not know enough about Europe. I can tell you in my humble opinion that the ordinary people of Ireland know a damn sight more about the intricacies of the European framework than nearly all the members of the other 27 states.”
But not only that - he also appeared to confess that he still hasn't read the Lisbon Treaty
The Irish Times reports:
"Asked after the event by Today FM had he read the treaty since admitting during last year’s campaign that he had not read it from cover to cover, he replied: 'I am going to stay up every night during every day of the summer reading chapters. I will put questions to every journalist I meet asking them what different subsections mean. A lot of that is political nonsense.'”
We can't quite decide what's more astonishing about all this. The fact that Ireland's own EU Commissioner has clearly not read nor tried to understand the Treaty, or the fact that he is willing to admit it in public. Or maybe it's the fact that that people in their millions are not yet jumping up and down about this seriously ridiculous situation.
Bruce Arnold, at least, made an almighty case against the stitch-up in Saturday's Irish Independent, writing under the headline "Government has abandoned democracy to get a 'yes' vote".
Criticising the failure of the main opposition parties, Labour and Fine Gael, to hold the government to account, he noted:
"The duty of those two opposition parties, with the others, is not to side with the Government -- certainly if its objectives are spurious -- but to hold it to account. Their job is to ensure that we put before the people a fair, objective choice."
"There is growing government determination to run the referendum campaign with huge, illegal support from the EU, preventing people from knowing what is in the treaty and what it means. This is what the debate is about."
"The EU meeting they attended was designed to involve Europe in an entirely domestic Irish issue: that of Ireland deciding on its future in Europe. The EU should not be so involved; it is not its decision, it is ours. Yet Europe, at the top of its totalitarian structure, is up to its neck in such involvement, already committing huge sums of money to pervert democracy in the one country among 27 that can hold back this surge, this tidal wave of pernicious autocracy."
"We have to decide, for ourselves and for other benighted member states who have been denied any process of deciding these questions democratically, whether we want to create a super-power and ever afterwards to be subservient to it."
Adding to the case against this charade, columnist Maurice Hayes, also at the Irish Independent, wrote:
"The clarifications [protocols] in this case are less an explanation of what is in the treaty, than an affirmation of what is not. More nuanced it may be, but the question remains the same -- as does the treaty."