Fears about jobs and the recession intimidated the Irish electorate to vote Yes in Friday’s referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty say pro-life No campaigners. Sixteen months after the Irish voted “No” to the Lisbon Treaty, and in the middle of a severe economic downturn, they have resoundingly changed direction and voted Yes in Friday’s referendum 67 per cent to 33 per cent.
The Irish electorate, said Richard Greene of leading pro-life No campaign group Cóir were “shamelessly bullied” into supporting the Treaty. “It’s a grubby victory for the elite who spent enormous sums frightening and manipulating people,” said Greene. He added, “The Yes campaign was dirty, extremely well-funded and entirely based on fear and lies. This is a victory for bullies, and for those who did not respect the wishes of the people.”
Pat Buckley, the EU spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said the Yes vote will prove to be a “pyrrhic victory for the Irish Government and for Europe.”
“Sadly our government were not strong enough to accept the first verdict given by the Irish people in voting No and gave in to European demands to ‘do it all over again and make sure you get the right answer this time’,” Buckley said. “European democracy has suffered a significant setback and the will of the Irish electorate has been disgracefully manipulated.”
The Irish government lavished upwards of €20 million (US $30 million) to secure a Yes vote that No campaigners warned would leave Irish constitutional protections for the right to life vulnerable to EU pro-abortion biases at the European Court of Justice. More funding came directly from the EU who supported the creation and activities of individual Yes campaign groups. Anti-EU groups, who said the move was unlawful, have threatened a legal challenge after 1.1 million copies of an EU booklet were distributed, at a cost to the taxpayer of €151,000.
Bruce Arnold, political commentator and parliamentary correspondent for the Irish Independent, argued that the second Lisbon referendum was characterized by “fear, lies and an array of blatant illegalities by the Irish Government.”
No campaigner Anthony Coughlan wrote that the threat from Lisbon includes a massive shift in power at the expense of smaller states to the “Big Four” states, Germany, France, Britain and Italy. Lisbon, opponents say, is a means to create a “supranational EU federal state,” which would have the power to override the Irish Constitution and laws in all areas covered by the treaties. The Lisbon Treaty will give the EU power over national laws and remove the ability of national electorates to have a say in the process.
After the formal ratification of Lisbon by the Irish government, the only remaining obstacle is the signature of Czech president Vaclav Klaus, a noted Eurosceptic. Klaus, however, has told media that with the Irish voting Yes, it is now “too late to stop Lisbon.” After Ireland’s vote, the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, said that he would sign the Lisbon Treaty Bill, “without undue delay.”
An intervention from the Vatican Secretariat of State came too late to sway Irish voters, most of whom are Catholics. Speaking to a Czech newspaper on Friday, the day of the vote, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone warned that the EU dictates to individual states on “laws or views” and that the Lisbon Treaty posed a threat to Irish “traditions and history.”
“Individual European countries have their own identity,” Cardinal Bertone said. “The European Union prescribes its laws or views to them and they must comply with their traditions and history.” Resistance to this process by states like Ireland is “logical,” he said. “The Church wants to encourage the states in this.”
This intervention came weeks after a statement made by the Irish bishops conference telling their flock that there were no ethical reasons not to support the Lisbon Treaty.
MEP Nigel Farage, a leading British Eurosceptic, described the result as “a victory for big money, a victory for thuggery and a travesty of democracy.”
The eyes of Lisbon watchers are now turned toward the U.K.’s Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, who has won a 20 per cent lead in the polls against Labour, partly on his promise to give the British people a referendum on the treaty. Cameron is widely expected to win the 2010 general election handily and become Britain’s next Prime Minister.
Farage, however, warned of a possible turn-about from Cameron’s party, which is now in Manchester at the annual party conference. “It appeared over the last couple of days, as it became clear that there was going to be a Yes vote in Ireland, that Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hague were beginning to weasel out of that.”
Richard Greene issued a direct public appeal to the Conservative leader to hold a referendum on Europe in the next British parliament.
As recently as the Wednesday before the vote, despite repeated promises, David Cameron had indicated that a Yes vote in Ireland might change the Tory commitment to a referendum. While the Conservative party has been lashing Gordon Brown’s Labour government over their broken promise of a UK referendum, Cameron said Wednesday, “If this treaty is still alive, if it is still being discussed and debated anywhere in Europe, then we will give you that referendum, we will name the date during the election campaign, we’ll hold that referendum straight away and I will lead the campaign for a No.”
But Cameron immediately followed with the caveat, “Now, if those circumstances change, if the Germans ratify, if the Poles ratify, if the Czechs ratify, if the Irish vote Yes to the treaty, then a new set of circumstances (apply), and I will address those at the time.”
Thus far, even with the result of the Irish referendum filling newspaper headlines, Cameron has declined to say if he would hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty if it was ratified before the election. James Kirkup, writing on his Daily Telegraph blog from the Conservative party conference in Manchester, said there is no sign of any talk from the party Eurosceptics of Europe, the Lisbon Treaty or a British referendum.
“By rights,” Kirkup wrote, “this conference should be a Tory bloodbath over Europe. David Cameron’s position on a Lisbon referendum is untenable. He knows it, you know it, the dogs in the street know it. And you can be sure that Tory Eurosceptics know it: they’re happy enough to say so. But only in private. Publicly, they’re all nice as pie, insisting that everything will work out for the best.”