The following is my summation of what seems to be the world media’s (with the exception of just one Financial Times article I found) perception of why we rejected the Lisbon Treaty (which we did not in fact do, I’ll explain shortly) today:
- We did not understand the treaty
- We wanted more from Europe
- We voted not against the treaty, but against our politicians
Of course the above is rubbish. Any reporter who had taken the time to research our issues properly would have known this.
- We understand the treaty, and generally agree with its content. With the possible exception of the clauses concerning our loss of representation in Europe, the Lisbon Treaty is a very positive document, and represents our almost unanimous wish for peace and betterment across Europe.
- We do not want more from Europe. If anything we want less. We joined a financial community, then the EEC, in the 1970s, and still hold firm with the principals then established. Since that time we have seen very considerable changes in Ireland, not least financial ones (we went from being almost a third world country, to one of the wealthiest, and most expensive, in the world), but also political ones (being forced into accepting laws which were against our constitution and wishes for example). We are now willing to sacrifice those financial gains for a return to what means most to us: being Irish.
- We didn’t vote against the treaty. Our referendum concerned the constitutional amendments required to allow the treaty to be ratified in this country. Those constitutional changes included (among other things): (i) removal of the clauses from our constitution protecting our neutrality, and (ii) addition of clauses giving European law precedence over Irish law.
Now let me discuss. It’s a sad but true statement that most people in the world know about Ireland because of our political troubles, and the long violence that has accompanied them. Ireland is a country that has fought for nearly 400 years for independence, and only recently have we finally started to recover from all the damage that has caused. In all that time, we had one wish: a wish for peace. Through the world wars we remained as neutral as was possible, and even recently with US aggression towards the middle-east we have striven to remain neutral and uninvolved. This was not apathy or selfishness, it was imply a realization what we will never hold any major influence in a conflict, and that conflict has never been positive for us. Irish people speak of “the troubles” (meaning our, now former, North-South conflict) like Jewish people speak of the holocaust.
A quick parting question to the reader: If there were referenda in other European countries concerning the treaty, how do you think the people would have voted? In particular, if the UK (who fundamentally have the same constitutional principles as us) had held true to their constitution, and held a referendum, how would the people have voted? (Note that when the British House of Commons voted on the treaty in March of this year, they passed it by only a 63% majority).