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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sticking to the point

Just returned from Ireland where we hosted an extremely fruitful debate on the Lisbon Treaty with an excellent panel of speakers from across the EU. Many of the debates on Lisbon are being hijacked by irrelevant issues, such as Ireland's membership of the EU, which is not up for debate.

So it was very refreshing to have a solid two hours dedicated to the detail of the Treaty and the ways in which it has been ratified in other countries around Europe.

Click here to read extracts - well worth a read if you would like to hear some new arguments from some new faces, such as Dr Jochen Bittner, Europe correspondent at German newspaper Die Zeit; Gisela Stuart, British Labour MP and member of the Convention on the Future of Europe which drew up the Treaty; Erik Lakomaa, a political strategist from Sweden; and Roland Vaubel, Professor in Economics at Mannheim University. And more.

In stark contrast, it struck us while over in Dublin that unfortunately, some of the more desperate 'yes' campaigners have now degenerated into anti-foreigner rants, short of detailed arguments for the Treaty itself.

First it was Professor Brigid Laffan, Chairwoman of 'Ireland for Europe', shouting about "the British" on Vincent Browne's TV3 debate on Tuesday. On the programme, Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally was asked why she believes the Treaty should be rejected, and responded saying it was a matter of trust and democracy. Trust, because the Irish government had repeatedly promised not to make Irish people vote again, and yet is doing so regardless. Democracy, because the Treaty abolishes the national veto in 60 areas of policy, and because Ireland stands to lose more than 40% of its power to block legislation it disagrees with. Under Lisbon, more decisions than ever before will be taken at European level as opposed to the national level, which means that citizens will have less say and less control.

Instead of replying to that point, and making a sensible counter-argument, Professor Laffan launched a desperate attack on Open Europe, including the bizarre argument that our input should be ignored because there are no women on our Advisory Council. Actually there are two, but hey ho.

Worse, we returned to the office today to see an email accusing us of being "paddy-hating".

Accusations of racism are a very low blow. Normally we'd dismiss this kind of thing but we were surprised to discover this pretty shocking email came from Dr John O'Brennan, a lecturer, no less, in European Politics and Society in the Sociology department at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, and director of the Center for the Study of Wider Europe. Surely he should know better? His message is not the kind of thing you would normally expect from an academic.

As a scholar concerned about the future of Europe, he should surely be welcoming debate about the future of the EU from people around Europe. In any case, as has been well documented, Lorraine herself is "paddy", so it would be a pretty weird case of self-hatred if true.

All that petty nonsense aside, isn't there an inherent contradiction in the arguments of those who are championing EU integration, and calling for more through the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and who are also so quick to dismiss the arguments of people from other EU countries? (Very ironic, too, that they - John O'Brennan - should do that while simultaneously accusing others of being racist).

These people are claiming the moral highground but their offensive and wild accusations are testament to an increasingly desperate campaign lacking in real arguments for the Treaty itself. Very sad.


Henrik Sultan said...

Nothing but expected by the Yea sayers... sad that it always comes down to name calling and slander...

Open Europe blog team said...

Dr John O'Brennan has sent an email claiming we have a "remarkable facility for distortion and misrepresentation" and "There was no suggestion of racialism on your part AT ALL." He then goes on to try and pick himself out of the rather unpleasant hole he has dug.

In the interests of fairness we will copy and paste his email here so that readers can make up their own minds as to its intended meaning.

The context is that Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally mispronounced Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche's name - just the once - during the TV debate on Tuesday, for which she was gently ribbed and for which she apologised immediately.

Funnily enough, during an angry exchange on RTE radio last summer just after the first no vote, Dick Roche himself repeatedly mispronounced Lorraine's family name - over and over and over again. It was ridiculous. But it would have been very petty to point it out or even to ever mention it again. It simply didn't cross our minds. Instead we stuck to the debate (which incidentally was him insisting there was absolutely no question of a second referendum).

While we're at it - Vincent Browne, the presenter on the same TV debate the other night, mispronounced the name of the EU High Representative, Javier Solana. Does that make him a 'Spaniard-hater'?

Here's the email:

> Sent: 08 September 2009 23:50
> To: Lorraine Mullally
> Subject: Minister Dick Roche


> Dear Lorraine,


> Your arguments on the Lisbon referendum in Ireland might have a tad more credibility if you did not keep mis-pronouncing the names of senior Irish government ministers. At the very least it reinforces the view of Open Europe as a retirement home for paddy-hating retired Tory MPs who have never quite accepted that the Irish people have the right to go their own way and take their own decisions. I suggest that next time you go on Irish television or radio that you undertake just a little homework in advance.


> Dr. J.C.O'Brennan,

> NUI Maynooth

Our reply:

Dear Dr O’Brennan


> Thank you for your email. I am surprised at your accusation that Open Europe is “paddy-hating”, given that I come from a family with a proud history of struggling for Irish independence, which you would have known if you’d followed your own advice and done “just a little homework”. See here, for example:

> http://www.openeurope.org.uk/media-centre/article.aspx?newsid=2597


> One mispronunciation does not make someone a racist and I am shocked that you are suggesting otherwise. If this is what the Lisbon debate is degenerating into, particularly from academics like yourself, then I think people have a right to know. I have posted your offensive comment on our widely-read blog.


> Kind regards,

> Lorraine

Dave said...

"...never quite accepted that the Irish people have the right to go their own way and take their own decisions." - Dr. J.C.O'Brennan

Another sublime 'irony' moment! The singular decision they are being asked to make is whether or not they have "the right to go their own way and take their own decisions" in relation to the additional sovereign powers that they are being asked to derogate to the EU. If they are foolish enough to agree, they will no longer have "the right to go their own way and take their own decisions."

If Dr. J.C.O'Brennan believes that Irish people have "the right to go their own way and take their own decisions" then he should of course vote No in the October referendum. He unwittingly affirms a point made on this Blog that Europhilia compels otherwise intelligent people to adopt unintelligent positions.

Dave Joslin said...

A referendum that has to be repeated if the required result is not forthcoming is about as undemocratic as you can get.
We are rapidly approaching the certainty of a Federal States of Europe and I for one would like to see laws that affect me decided by Parliament not by an udemocratic, inefficient buch of nameless beurocrats in Brussels.

John Sharman said...

Irelands NO vote is our last chance
of halting this attempt to create an even greater layer of governance
and subsequent taxing.
We need less faceless layers dipping our pockets. This is not democracy. Freeloaders your days are numbered

Anonymous said...

How can you call any of this democratic when the British people were refused a Referendum. Our politicians talk of democracy in India and Afganistan but surely democracy begins at home but not for the British people it would seem.

John L D said...

If European governments were willing to forego their powers of patronage, the simple democratic deficit could be easily remedied by Europe-wide elections for the new posts created by the Lisbon Treaty and for all European Commissioners.

However, there is a deeper democratic deficiency that will be much harder to remedy, the inability of the vast majority of the electorate to partake in and influence decision making. The basic problem is the lack of a common language. Opinions are formed by national groups, sharing a common language that allows the fast dissemination of ideas and the discussion of those ideas in a multiplicity of media. It is possible to create a wide consensus for a programme of action within such a group but virtually impossible to do so across Europe.

Decision making has become the preserve of relatively small pressure groups, academics, political parties and governments, with the wider population excluded until it is too late to do anything about it.

James said...

Bridigit Laffan was extremley rude to that nice speaking English girl on the Vincent Brown show' Does Brigit not know that Good manners will get you anywhere. That young girl from Open Europe was so well mannered. Irish people have got to assertive and rarely listen. Look at the crock of shit this goverenment has landed us in.James

James Mc Connell said...

Bridid Laffan was extremley rude to that nice English speaking girl on the Vincent Brown show. Brigid need to know that good manners will get you anywhere. The government wants us to vote YES in THE Lisbon Treaty and just look at the CROCK OF SHIT they have just landed us in with NAMA. No to Lisbon, No to NAMA. We want to live in a Country not an Econmy.