On Thursday Ireland goes to the polls to vote in a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, and at the moment it seems too close to call what the result will be.
In a remarkable display of unity, all of Ireland’s major political parties (except for Sinn Féin) are pushing for a ‘Yes’ vote, to amend the country’s constitution and ratify the Lisbon Treaty. But the ‘No’ vote campainers have also done a very good job about putting their message forward, citing numerous justifications (some of them quite spurious) as to why the people should reject the changes.
And it seems, with the majority of the population mostly ignorant as to what the Lisbon Treaty is actually about, the voting will mostly be led by people’s hearts rather than their minds.
To me, it comes down to one overiding principal: do you want the governance of Europe to be fair and equal for all, or do you want the early EU entrants in Western Europe to continue to exercise a disproportionate amount of power?
A ‘Yes’ vote would see increased equality for all member nations, and a reduction in the stalling and veto powers of western nations. And conversely, a ‘No’ vote would see the status quo continue, with newer members in Eastern Europe being treated like second-class citizens.
I can see why a lot of people in Ireland want to vote ‘No’ and reject the Treaty. The European Union has been good for Ireland; providing much of the funding that has driven the economic revival the country has enjoyed over the last 20 years or more. And people will naturally want to protect the status quo when they’re on to a ‘good thing’.
In the past Ireland has always been a net recipient of EU funding; receiving more cash back from Europe than it paid out. But with the more recent addition of somewhat poorer counties in Eastern Europe, this situation will undoubtably change in the future, as EU development cash will be redistributed to these other countries.
And with a ‘Yes’ vote, it’s conceivable that this changeover to being a net contributor to the EU would happen faster.
There’s also the argument that a ‘Yes’ vote will lose Ireland some political influence within the EU. And for a country of some 4.2 million residents, out a total EU population of almost half a billion, it has certainly held a disproportionate influence in the past.
And even with a ‘Yes’ vote, it will continue to do so, as smaller counties always get more representation than their population would warrant. And with a ‘Yes’ vote, the Dáil (along with every other country’s national parliament) would get more say in European policy too. But don’t take my word for it.