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12 June 2008 Edition

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Media View

The spectre over Tuscany

“ARE WE out of our collective minds?” asked a typically fair and objective editorial in Saturday’s Irish Times on the Lisbon Treaty. This followed an editorial in the previous day’s paper which had published an opinion poll suggesting the ‘No’ side was in front for the first time in the campaign.
There is a spectre haunting Europe, Karl Marx would have observed: the spectre of Geraldine Kennedy being unable to hold her head up high in Tuscany this year. What will the Sarkozys and Berlusconis think if the Irish political and media establishment cannot beat the peasantry into line?
What’s interesting though is who is to be blamed in this regard. According to Friday’s Times editorial:
“A sudden unravelling of support for the treaty within the major parties raises questions about the nature and quality of the political campaigns being orchestrated by Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and Mr Cowen.”
The Tribune agreed in an editorial on Sunday.
“Cowen has put his political neck on the block and defeat will be humiliating.
“It is also a major embarrassment for Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore, both of whom were barely visible in the early stages of the Lisbon campaign.
“Given those early warning signs and the experience of losing the first Nice referendum in pretty similar circumstances, the incompetence of the ‘Yes’ camp has been remarkable.”
Strangely, what’s missing from all this is that the Irish people, by voting ‘No’, are not just rejecting the consensus of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour/Democratic Left/New Agenda, the Green leadership and the PDs (some consensus, you must admit) but the media establishment as well.
With a level of adoration and blind loyalty that would have Pravda editors of the Stalin era muttering about declining standards in journalism, the media consensus on Lisbon has been strongly, even virulently, backing a ‘Yes’ vote.
Shane Coleman observes elsewhere in the Tribune:
“There is a strange public mood out there that is anti-establishment, anti-authority and anti-politician at this time. There is a breakdown of trust between the political establishment and the electorate.”
There’s also, Shane old chap, a complete breakdown in trust between the media establishment and the readership if so many Irish people are prepared to vote ‘No’.
Maybe next time the Irish media might adopt a slightly more critical attitude towards expert advice from Brussels and Strasbourg.

YOU have to hand it to the ‘Yes’ campaign though. If there’s a way of ignoring the issues they will embrace it with both hands.
On Monday’s Questions & Answers on RTE 1 the ‘Yes’ side fluffed the chance to turn the tide.
Newly-appointed Fianna Fáil Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin TD wasn’t bad, trotting out the standard ‘Yes’ line and shouting people down as if the Corkman had been born to it.
Bizarrely, the Fine Gael press office, in what would not be their stupidest move this week, chose to put their party leader on the panel, seating him on the edge of the row, making him look like Martin’s slightly dim but better-coiffed sidekick. Robin, if you will, to Martin’s Batman.
Flailing about all evening when Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald (in what was probably her best performance in an excellent referendum campaign for the Dublin MEP) dismantled the ‘Yes’ side argument on neutrality, Kenny responded by desperately dragging in the IRA! “You really don’t want to debate the treaty, do you, Enda? You really don’t want to debate it,” Mary Lou responded.
Free piece of advice to the gels in  the Fine Gael press office. Next time you send someone to play with the big boys and girls on Europe, send Creighton or Mitchell. Save the lightweights for the posters.

STILL ON Fine Gael, and the stupidest move of the week, the party also decided to stick it to the taxi drivers.
“I was horrified yesterday to see ‘No’ to Lisbon stickers on taxis,” said Fine Gael TD and well-known Travellers’ rights activist Olivia Mitchell, according to Tuesday’s Star.
“I have asked the taxi regulator for clarification on this point but I believe that taxis should not be used to carry political slogans.”
Yeah, love, that’s going to turn the tide.  

VINCENT Browne’s column in this week’s Business Post was the first sensible thing he has written on Lisbon – including his paragraph by paragraph vanity analysis in the current edition of Village.
Responding to arguments from ‘Yes’ campaigners, he dismisses them with his customary vigour.
“The stuff about climate change is, frankly, a lie. The Lisbon Treaty makes not a jot of difference to the ability of the EU to deal with climate change and the ‘Yes’ side know that. The stuff about our energy future being secured is also vastly overblown...
“Dick Roche said on a radio programme last week that Europe would be ‘infinitely’ more democratic as a consequence of these measures. Get a life, Dick.”
And his summation description of the EU is worth quoting in full.

“The EU is essentially an inter-governmental institution which allows governments to do things under the guise of the European Council which, individually, they would not get away with.
“Because of its ‘all-in-together’ nature, that remains undisturbed under this treaty. Nothing has been done about this core obstacle to democracy in the EU. Euro fans call this the ‘democratic deficit’, which is a nice little harmless phrase to convey what is essentially a cancerous deficiency.”
Vincent Browne is living proof of Grandma Carney’s overused saying that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And even Vincent Browne can stumble across a gem of truth.

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