The Fiscal Reform Treaty

I was delighted to write for the Guardian’s live blog on the Euro Crisis this week, discussing Ireland’s referendum on the Fiscal Compact Treaty.

On Thursday evening, I wrote about how I voted and why:

I’m euro-skeptic at the best of times, but now, in the worst of times, I don’t think I have the option. I voted no to Lisbon the first time, trying to slow the process of Europe. I was brow-beaten into a ‘yes’ the second time. This time I voted yes with full certainty. We’re in need. It’s a painful reality, but come Monday I don’t want to be looking under the couch cushions for punt coins.

So I’m quite anxious about tomorrow’s results and frustrated by the low turnout, as well as by the government’s failure to properly inform people. It’s left them vulnerable to the outrageously sensationalist attacks of the no campaign.

Many of us are disgusted by the cowboys on the other side of the fence; the rabble-rousing, summoning Ireland’s children to her flag and horribly misrepresenting European leaders. When one side is portraying the blood being squeezed out of Ireland’s veins, “stability and growth” seem like paltry responses, but those are the realities. Giving the finger to Europe, bankers and anyone else in the crossfire is tempting, but dangerously irresponsible.

Then, on Friday my reaction to the decisive ‘yes’ vote:

Colour me relieved. For the sake of Irish stability and (albeit distant) growth, it was necessary for the referendum to be carried. It’s good to see that the loudness of the no campaign was disproportionate to its level of support.

However, I don’t think that the coalition should chalk this up as a victory. The government campaign showed the same electoral complacency that characterized the previous two/four European referenda and we’re lucky that that didn’t decide the result.

The last few weeks have shown the deep divisions between different sectors of Irish society. The range of results across urban constituencies reflect a dissatisfaction with austerity politics in working class communities. Today’s ‘yes’ buys time, but doesn’t resolve the underlying issues.

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One thought on “The Fiscal Reform Treaty

  1. “the government’s failure to properly inform people.”

    Sorry what? The referendum commission mailed every household with a detailed booklet outlining the treaty and what it entails. One couldn’t step onto Youtube, Facebook or The Irish Times website without being hit with ads and links to the referendum commission’s website. The Yes parties ran a campaign outlining what was in the treaty and the case for it. The No side ran campaigns based on their interpretation of the impact of the treaty. If people were ill-informed it was because of their willful ignorance and their shirking of their duty to inform themselves on an issue affecting the future of their state. It’s rhetorically lazy to simply blame the political establishment for citizens’ unwillingness to inform themselves and become active in their democracy. Unless your metric for a good campaign is government ministers reading the referendum booklet to each voter and then carrying them to the polling booth then a more nuanced view of the interaction between citizens’ political activism and their participation would be more helpful than the jaundiced view that politicians are the only failing we have in this democracy.

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