The Irish had to fight for centuries to win their independence, and theirs is a fierce and proud record. They have just extended that record by voting to reject the Lisbon Treaty, the instrument by which the European Union intends to achieve its final status as a sovereign entity, a new United States of Europe.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen and his cabinet, in conjunction with the main opposition party, the Greens, the Catholic Church, the business elite, and the media commentators, were united in a hectoring chorus to persuade their compatriots to vote “Yes.” Against this establishment were a mysterious millionaire, and marginal figures, underdogs, some reprehensible like Sinn Fein, the IRA terrorists.
Multiple reasons are given for the resounding victory of the “No” vote. Ireland is about to become a financial contributor to the EU rather than a beneficiary, as it has been. One fear was that Ireland’s agriculture might suffer at the hand of Brussels, another was that it would be obliged to scrap a tax regime that brings competitive advantages.
Twenty-seven countries now make up the EU, and all have been, or are being, dragooned into accepting this treaty that will change their character and erode their national sovereignty forever. Ireland is unique in having a constitution that specifies that any change to it requires a referendum. The Irish have seen how the EU rough-rides over other countries, and they have preferred to stay true to themselves and their past.
The reaction of the EU leaders only establishes how wise the Irish are to try to preserve their independence. As the Irish vote was announced, EU President Jose Manuel Barroso gave a press conference in which he made scarcely veiled threats. Other leaders spoke openly of dodges and legal subterfuges intended either to disregard the Irish vote or to make Ireland vote again until the desired result is achieved. Instead of congratulations, the Irish are the recipients of ill will and calls for retribution.
EU leaders like to tub-thump about their democratic credentials, but they evidently see themselves building an empire that is not going to take note of matters like a democratic vote against them. The luck of the Irish is famous — and they’re going to need it.