I voted YES
I began writing with the intention of explaining to anybody who'd read this why I voted yes. This paragraph is my second attempt at an opening. I find myself unable to form a coherent justification. My confident, brash original opening paragraph has had to be put aside, crossed through by my internal blue pencil with a comment in my mind's margin; ``unsupported by rest of text''. So bare with me. This is going to be as much an explanation for me as for you.
I voted yes. I wasn't proud of that as I left the polling station and the more I think on it, the more disappointed in myself I become.
Regardless of the referendum's outcome, I've given credibility to horrific political scheming. That burns. I hate it that I've validated the notion that an uncooperative electorate can be pestered into giving the decision most suited to the ambitions of the government du jour. Our government is a five year old child that won't take no for an answer and resorts to throwing tantrums. If Nice's chilling precedent is abused in future I'll have to take some of the blame.
The country said no -- no, fair and square, with the conventional degree of apathy; apathy that was perfectly palatable while the referenda went the right way. That alone is justification for voting no. A true democrat would sideline his own opinion to revalidate the democratic process and its legitimate outcome. A no-voter friend of mine did just this (his natural tendancy was to reluctantly vote yes). We voted no the last time. That result should stand. Instead, our brat has learned that we can be worn down. Any parent will tell you that short term appeasement is a fallacy which will return to bite you on the arse.
Let's be clear on a few details. Firstly, Nice has little to do with neutrality. Article 29.4.9, as proposed, is a very exact instrument and is a million miles from constitutional neutrality. It bans an EU Council common defence formed under article 1.2 of Treaty of Nice. That's it. Threats to our ever more mythical neutrality from any other source, EU or not, are up to the government of the day to embrace with open arms and wallets. That said, we're better off with 29.4.9 than without -- governments just cannot be trusted. However, such a specific legal provision does not belong in the constitution anymore than, say, parking regulations. ``We, the people, do enact that one shall never park on double yellow lines''. We urgently need a real constitutional ban on any mutual defence or military alliance.
Secondly, the Seville declaration is useless. It is the gentlemanly word of Silvio, Tony, Gerhard, Bertie and their cohorts. I know how much faith I place in that. It has as much credibility as Ahern's pledge to hold a referendum on accession to NATO's Partnership for Peace. For the sake of anyone who hasn't been paying attention, Ireland joined PfP sans referendum, an action Ahern-in-opposition described as ``a serious breach of faith and fundamentally undemocratic''. Governments just cannot be trusted.
Not content with rerunning a referendum after a mere eighteen months, the Government has made sure that we, the ill educated and meddlesome public, won't have an opportunity to interfere with their visionary plans in the future. As we all should know, running a country is much too important for the general public to have any part in. The newly inserted article 29.4.8 ensures that EU fiats will never again have to gain popular approval. Bertie would have us believe that a Dail vote -- which, by definition, practically ensures victory for the sitting government -- is a suitable substitute to popular referendum. God help us all.
I can't help myself. I'm supposed to be talking about why I voted yes. Rather I'm going over the myriad reasons I should have voted no. Focus James.
I wanted to allow the expansion of the European Union. That is the fundamental reason. I don't claim the Treaty of Nice was required for expansion. Indeed, I'm convinced of the exact opposite. Amsterdam's policies were designed to support a twenty member union -- there's five new 'uns right there. Any individual accession treaty could fine tune arrangements as needed. The cold fact is Brussels needed a threat with which to bring us around. And so, in spite of the abundant truth, they told us that enlargement would not happen without Nice. I believe they would follow through on their threat. It could be done, but they would make sure it wouldn't. In spite of the invitation to call their bluff, I think the admission of ten new members is too important to risk, merely to place some egg on deserving faces. I capitulated in the face of their ultimatum and I'm none too proud of it.
The EU may be hailing Bertie's ``victory'' but the press is going for the jugular. CNN's (nee BBC's) Robin Oakley asked Bertie if he felt any guilt for the worry he caused, in light of ``what you can achieve when you actually bother to try''. Ahern's response was to point out that article 29.4.8 would make sure such embarrassment won't be repeated and that, two referenda aside, he'd delivered ratification ahead of its deadline. With some luck, his treachery will be rewarded at the next general election -- presuming he feels they are still a useful exercise.
I know I've been shafted. I let myself be shafted, though I've convinced myself it was for a greater good. I won't forget that Mr. Ahern. You drink in my local. I vote in your constituency.
(c) James Raftery, October 2002.