Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Irish Opposition Parties Fear Loss Of Support Over Lisbon
Last week's Open Europe poll pointing out the growing euroscepticism in Ireland has met with a barrage of hostile comment from the Irish government. But this is not the only sign that political sentiment towards the EU is fundamentally changing in Ireland.
The Irish government's option of holding a second referendum is clearly a hopeless avenue to pursue. The other proposal, in the light of that, was that all Irish political Parties (bar Sinn Fein) should stand together and push for a 'way forward', code for a Parliamentary ratification, ignoring the referendum. This plan is now also looking less likely to succeed.
The Irish labour Party, which backed the YES side in the Lisbon vote has begun to take on board that the majority of its supporters voted NO. Likewise Fine Gael backed the YES vote, and yet over half of its members and supporters also voted NO in the referendum. As sentiment against Lisbon is strengthening, the Irish government seeking a Parliamentary ratification, would be asking both these two parties to back a policy directly opposed by most of their own supporters.
This runs the risk of pushing them into the arms of Sinn Fein, which is the only Party to campaign for a NO to Lisbon.
The fear of losing their supporters has been enough to make Labour and Fine Gael back off rom the attempted stitch-up of their own voters. As a result, the cross-party pro-EU alliance which has held sway in Ireland for the 35 years since Ireland joined the EU is starting to break down.
See this report from The Irish Times
Cross-party alliance on Lisbon Treaty breaking down in Ireland
The Irish Times reports that opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour are to oppose the formation of a special parliamentary committee to analyse the no vote and propose a way forward. The paper notes that "The development fractures the cross-party unity that has existed on European Union issues between the major parties, as both main Opposition parties adopt a slightly more distanced attitude towards the treaty...
The significance of the Fine Gael move is a strong signal that it is less likely to be as supportive to the Government on EU issues in future, particularly since half of its declared support voted No in June. The Labour Party leader, Eamon Gilmore, who has already said that he would oppose a second referendum, is faced with the reality that a strong majority of his party's support base voted No."
If Biffo Cowen is going to try to ram a ratification through the Irish Parliament, he will not be able to claim unanimity between all the main political parties, it seems.
He might in time be forced to start counting the political cost to his own party, maybe when it is too late.
The Labour Party in the UK is paying a price for denying democracy, and cheating voters out of the promised referendum. Ignoring the result of the Irish referndum is about the same in moral turpitude, as denying a promised referendum, and will no doubt create similar electoral effects, sending support for the Irish government crashing through the floor.
Democracy could yet prove the stronger force in both countries, as the wooden and unpopular EU finds it cannot overpower the genuinely held views of millions of British and Irish voters.
PICTURED - Kenny, the leader of Fine Gael as imagined by opponents of the Lisbon Treaty.
HAGUE ON IRELAND AND BRITAIN SOON STANDING TOGETHER - UK Shadow Foreign Minister William Hague had an article in the Irish Times over the weekend, arguing that "If Lisbon remains unratified by all EU member states, a Conservative government will put Britain's ratification of the treaty on ice and hold a referendum, recommending a No vote to a document we believe represents an outdated centralising approach to the EU. So the chances are growing that Ireland's voters will not be alone in saying No to Lisbon for long."
If my admitted ignorance about the plethora of Ireland's political parties, many with seemingly similar names has caused me to make errors, I am sure someone will help me out with an appropriate comment!