News out of Ireland this week is that it is undemocratic to be given a vote on the future of your country.
Declan Ganley, a millionaire businessman whose opposition to the Lisbon Treaty saw him become a TV star along the lines of X-Factor or something, said: “The Irish people had a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. They voted No. A higher percentage of the electorate voted no than voted for Barack Obama in the United States of America. No one’s suggesting he should run for re-election next month.”
The argument is that once you vote on something, that’s it. No more votes. “No” means no. Of course it hasn’t worked this way in the past as Deco and his fellow No to Lisbon-ites well know.
Divorce and Divorce II
In 1986, when Ireland was asked to vote on the existing prohibition of divorce, the country overwhelmingly rejected it by 63% to 36%; almost 2-to-1. Rather “undemocratically” we were all asked to vote again on the same issue nine years later since the re-elected Fine Gale government of the time refused to accept the previous will of the Irish people. That time the vote was carried by a margin of 9,000 votes or 0.5%.
I wonder how many people who were happy to be able to get a second chance to vote “yes” to divorce in 1995 are now crying foul over Lisbon II?
In 1983 the country enforced a constitutional ban on abortion that leaves Ireland in the company of the likes of Chile, El Salvador, Malta and Nicaragua as places with outright bans. Isn’t it about time we revisited that issue now? Or does “no” still mean no in this case? I’m confused.
How about in a case where Northern Ireland has a referendum on the unification of the island of Ireland – if the answer was “no” would that be the final time we’d vote on that? Would Sinn Féin (steadfast opponents of Lisbon II) concur to a second vote in that instance?
Divorce and abortion are social issues that everybody can relate to. The Lisbon Treaty is a vague and complex document (seemingly open to no end of interpretations) of which a large number of people have – understandably – insufficient understanding. It’s probably fair to say that a lot of people should be considered unqualified to vote on Lisbon given that lack of understanding.
Look how easy it is to manipulate those who are ignorant by scaring them with groundless pap such as that voting “no” will lead to a loss of jobs and isolation or that voting “yes” will lead to abortion, conscription to a European army (they’ve been wheeling that one out since 1973) and a minimum wage of €1.84 an hour. How is that democratic?
Democracy in action
Ganley’s complaint that “no” means no is a nice catchphrase when the re-vote doesn’t suit your agenda. It would be great if democracy was perfect but of course it isn’t. It is tainted by one side or the other having more charismatic spokespeople, more funding, better media coverage, or just being superior at using the truth more economically. It’s a bit imperfect, like the justice system I suppose – and that’s why we have retrials.
If we have a referendum every day and nobody is excluded from voting then this is democracy in action. The result will always be the will of the people. I have no problem with this.
I elected someone to vote for me
I’m all for a Constitution as it helps provide a country with a legal and moral framework. But I don’t want to have to spend a Friday afternoon voting on a document that I will never truly understand. I think the government should pass legislation like this without having to bother me about it. It’s not like it fundamentally changes the core principles of the state such as neutrality, abortion or economic autonomy. Right?
Or isn’t anyone sure yet?