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Sunday 27 January 2008

Look at the implications and join sceptics in my bed

On European issues, you can't be judged by the company you keep, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

'So you're going to bed with neo-Nazis," said Henry, with whom I talk politics several mornings a week, and who was referring to Sinn Fein. "And the Socialist Party," I said, "and some Greens who haven't had their principles reversed by association with power. And Raymond Deane."

He hadn't heard of Deane, but by the time I had finished telling him about the anti-Israel propaganda of Deane and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Henry -- who is as anti-Islamist as I am -- was gibbering. "You're as bad as your granny," he said -- a low blow, for my granny was keen on the IRA, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.

Henry, I should explain, is enthusiastically pro-EU, while I, once a Europhile, became disillusioned into Euroscepticism by meddling Brussels bureaucrats and then outraged by sneaky anti-democratic federalists into Europhobia. I had invited this assault by telling Henry I would be writing that I hoped Ireland would seize its unique opportunity to influence the course of European history for the good by showing courage and sense and voting down the Lisbon treaty.

Admitting that I couldn't stand most of the people who've come out publicly on the 'No' side, I tried to placate Henry by telling him that in the same bed there were a few like Declan Ganley and his Libertas organisation that seemed sound, and that Kevin Myers was there too curled around the hot-water bottle.

But much though Henry reveres Kevin, he was beyond comforting. Raving about neo-Nazis, he rang off before I could point out that if I had limited my political positions to those that are held by the bulk of my friends, I would probably not have spent years, along with him, virulently criticising the Provos at a time when to do so was to be smeared by the Irish and British establishments as an enemy of the peace process.

The smearing of anyone on the No side on Lisbon is similarly ferocious and unscrupulous. Although I like and admire Proinsias de Rossa, his "nyeah-nyeah-nyeah" attack on Sinn Fein on the grounds that they are on the same side as Jean-Marie Le Pen is intellectually contemptible. I may think Sinn Fein morally and economically illiterate, but that doesn't mean they (and indeed Le Pen) can never be right on anything. They're right that Ireland is poised to throw away unthinkingly the sovereignty its people have traditionally prized.

Here is a quiz.

  1. Do you know that the 2005 EU Constitution was rejected by France and the Netherlands, thus saving Ireland and Britain from holding referendums?
  2. Do you agree that since Bertie Ahern, Angela Merkel, the architect of the 2005 Constitution, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, and almost every European leader other than Gordon Brown say that the Lisbon Treaty is the Constitution minus a few unimportant fripperies, it probably is?
  3. If so, does it seem honest to you that it was given a new name just so that the French, Dutch and British governments could deny that it was a constitution and avoid holding referendums?
  4. Does it seem right that the treaty has been deliberately made vague and unreadable? Giscard d'Estaing, who is more arrogant than discreet, admitted last summer that "all the earlier proposals will be in the new text, but will be hidden and disguised in some way." One clever tactic has been that rather than produce a coherent treaty, it is all presented as amendments to previous treaties.
  5. Should we be content that the EU establishment long ago decided that the people had no right to be wrong? Thanks again to the ever-helpful Giscard for his tactlessness in saying out loud what the others won't: "Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly."
  6. Since every other country in the EU is being denied a vote, and therefore all those opposed to Lisbon have been silenced, does Ireland not have a duty to discuss this treaty openly and frankly?
  7. Is it proper that the Irish government has decided that rather than putting out a impartial leaflet explaining the treaty and outlining the pro and con arguments, the referendum commission should merely urge people to vote?
  8. Should Bertie Ahern be trying to frighten us by saying -- wrongly -- that we'll be cut adrift if we exercise our democratic right to reject the treaty?
  9. Are we persons or mice?

If your answers to the foregoing are 'Yes', 'Yes', 'No', 'No', 'No', 'Yes', 'No', 'No' and 'Persons', are you prepared to make a fuss? If so, have a look at www.openeurope.org, which is full of information the establishment parties would rather you didn't have.

In case you're worried about what's going on in bed, for the sake of all the occupants, I've put in a bulk order for bolsters, earplugs and eyeshades.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards