Reactions to the Irish referendum

Lord Norton

I have previously written about the material we receive as parliamentarians.  One of the publications that arrives regularly on my desk is The German Times, ‘a monthly newspaper for Europe’. 

In the July issue, the executive editor, Theo Sommer, writes about the outcome of the referendum in Ireland on the Lisbon treaty.  He raises issues that should stimulate debate (as well as some people’s blood pressure).  His article reflects a particular attitude that is to be found among some leading figures in the EU.  You will glean the nature of his article from the concluding two paragraphs:

“Euroskeptics like to brandish the argument that the Irish vote has to be heeded by all EU members, as it is the result of a democratic process.  This raises not  only the question whether it is truly democratic for a tiny minority to stop an overwhelming majority from moving forward.  It also raises the fundamental issue of whether Europe is not better served by the judgment of its politicians than by the prejudices of its citizens.

As Der Speigel, Germany’s leading news magazine, put it: ‘Those tricksters palmed off the Single Market, the euro, the abolition of border controls and, more recently, a climate change unrivaled anywhere in the world on the peoples of Europe.  All of these were the right things to do and they turned Europe into a very livable continent.  Put to a referendum, most would have been delayed, if not completely stopped.  Democracy does not assume unlimited confidence in the citizenry.  Sometimes great matters are better off in the hands of politicians.'”

I have made clear that I am against referendums, but that is very different from believing that the views of citizens should be brushed aside in favour of the supposedly superior views of an elite.   There has to be a proper discourse if political leaders are to carry the people with them.  That places a particularly heavy burden in most member states on the national parliament.  The constitutional arrangements of the EU require ratification of treaties by all member states.   It is on that basis that member states signed up for membership.  The response to the outcome of the Irish referendum should surely be a serious discussion as to the reasons for the result rather than a dismissal of it as the actions of a ‘tiny minority’.  Whether one likes it or not (and clearly some do not), each member state is a veto player when it comes to treaties and treaty amendments.

8 comments for “Reactions to the Irish referendum

  1. Adrian Kidney
    18/07/2008 at 10:59 pm

    The prevailing discourse among our talking heads in this nation mean no meaningful or constructive debate can be had over the European question. As I have said earlier on this blog, the utterly ridiculous tripe which is thrown at the EU leads moderate skeptics such as myself to defend the pro-EU camp strongly simply out of spite. Highly contentuous issues such as this cannot be dealt with by referendums (the lack of finality over the 1973 referendum demonstrates this), but the politicians are equally unwilling to face it – at least those who feel a referendum would settle the issue for them.

    The Liberal Democrats themselves cannot claim to be at one on this issue, having suffered a split in March over whether to force a referendum. There is a glaring flaw in the assumption that the majority is automatically right, and no question of its authority should be tolerated.

  2. 19/07/2008 at 6:02 pm

    As soon as you realise that the EU is a stepping stone to a one world government, you are against it utterly, totally and completely!

    This is the real reason the Irish result is being passed over and why we were refused the promised referendum. The elite bankers and industrialists who are really in control will not be stopped in their demonic quest to have us all under surveillance by a global Stasi.

    Right now, FEMA Concentration Camps are being set up to round up dissident Americans as well as illegal immigrants.


    Have you heard of Zbigniew Brzezinski?

    He advised various presidents and now Barack Obama and has called for the world to be unified under control of the UN.

    The late Hollywood producer, Aaron Russo (Trading Places, The Rose, America: Freedom to Fascism), was asked by his friend and member of the ‘elite’ Nick Rockefeller if he wanted to join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and explained about the plan to microchip the population and that the ‘war on terror’ was a hoax –

    Russo turned down the lucrative offer and turned to fighting for freedom instead by exposing the deception in ‘high’ places.

    There’s only paranoia where there are no grounds for concern and there are plenty.

    What is being done incrementally is transference of power from the individual to the state. This is why the family, religions and communities are under attack – under surveillance – because they have their own power structures on various levels.

    The UK needs not only to leave the EU, but to encourage other countries to do the same and ensure its destruction.

    The EU is not built on trust, but on suspicion, inequalities, deals, admitted corruption and on the changing of their own rules when it suits and for these reasons alone should be disbanded.

    You may like my website:

  3. B Jones
    19/07/2008 at 7:52 pm

    It’s always slightly concerning to hear a German talk about ignoring the people and trusting politicians …

  4. 20/07/2008 at 1:41 am

    This raises not only the question whether it is truly democratic for a tiny minority to stop an overwhelming majority from moving forward. It also raises the fundamental issue of whether Europe is not better served by the judgment of its politicians than by the prejudices of its citizens.

    Hmmm, or put another way:

    This raises not only the question whether it is truly democratic for an overwhelming majority to steamroller a minority just to move forward. It also raises the fundamental issue of whether Europe is not better served by listening to the concerns of its citizens rather than the whims of its politicians.

    Whilst being generally very pro-Europe, I have to draw the line with the Lisbon treaty, merits of the actual document aside, the nature of its enactment is disenfranchising the people it will effect.

    Isn’t this the second attempt at creating a European constitution? The first attempt failed referendums in every country didn’t it? So the second time around, most countries just don’t bother to have a referendum on the subject at all. What a fantastic way to completely miss the point of all those no votes.

    To put it simply: the ends don’t justify the means.

    If you don’t mind me asking, Lord Norton: are you generally pro or anti united Europe?

  5. lordnorton
    20/07/2008 at 9:22 pm

    Liam: I am not easily labelled. Rather like Adrian Kidney I am immensely irritated by wild claims made, both by Europhiles and Europhobes. I prefer to take my own line. If anything, I am a Euro iconoclast.

  6. howridiculous
    21/07/2008 at 8:30 am

    Lord Norton, looking at the Collins dictionary I see that iconoclast is defined as ‘a person who attacks established or traditional concepts, principles, etc’. I trust your iconoclasm stretches only to foreign political institutions and concepts!

  7. lordnorton
    21/07/2008 at 9:41 am

    howridiculous: I frequently challenge concepts that become so accepted that no one bothers to question them. I get rather irritated by people parroting phrases as if their truth or indeed meaning is is self-evident when it isn’t.

  8. 21/07/2008 at 11:50 am

    Statements like the one quoted do make me despair about the perception
    in Europe in engenders. I’m generally pro-european but I wish it could
    be more directly answerable to it’s population. As far as I can tell
    although we have MEPs they wield very little power compared to the
    council of ministers. People are understandable twitchy if they see 27
    ministers (only 1 of which they have any influence over) making laws
    by majority vote. I would be happier if the european parliament (being
    balanced and representative) had the final (european) say on measures.
    It’s still important that nation states have the final say.

    To my mind Europe has worked best on the big issues. Free trade,
    Environmental policies and human rights are all things that benefit
    from the consolidated approach of all the nations. However I worry
    about too much prescriptive power being wielded by the remote
    commissioners who are not directly accountable to the people.

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