8 October 2009 Edition
Ireland - the place where 'Níl' means 'Tá!'
BY ELLA O’DWYER
The RDS, Dublin 9.30am, Saturday 3 October and the omens aren’t great.
Proinsias de Rossa was right behind me in the queue for coffee when, by dint of some devious side-stepping move, he suddenly skips the queue and appears in front of me. I’m speechless.
Over at the barrier, doing the tally, there’s an overture of four Tás before the first Níl appears. It’s not looking good at all. “We never win anything,” quips one smart-assed comedian before psyching himself up for the inevitable. It was becoming apparent that we’d shortly be all Tá-d out.
Though things weren’t all doom and gloom by any means – at least not for Sinn Féin.
“In places like Finglas, Ballymun and Whitehall,” Dessie Ellis tells me, “we’ve held a very strong ‘No’ vote and we’re very happy with that.”
“Sure we’d already won this election last time round and the Yes people have just bought it this time with the likes of Intel and Ryanair’s O’Leary,” says Áine Downes of Sinn Féin Dublin Central.
“The Yes campaign got more middle-class voters out this time and it remains to be seen if enough No voters came out,” says Communist Party General Secretary Eugene McCartan. “We must remain revolutionary optimists,” he nods with a wink.
Revolutionaries by nature are optimistic and even compassionate folk.
“Beidir go mbeidh ár lá again fós” (maybe we’ll have our day yet), says Áine Ní Gabhainn.
“The people were frightened into voting ‘Yes’,” Treasa Quinn of Sinn Féin Finance Department says understandingly.
By now it’s past noon and my ‘EUphobe’ French husband has left me for another county, my native Tipperary, where he gets a right sickener altogether. Tipperary votes 70% Yes.
The good thing was that it’s all very fast and by mid-day it’s all over bar the shouting.
The Yes men and women are already arranging a party while the rest of us are left out like children with their noses pressed against a sweet-shop window. But then the Left, whether out or in, are forever optimistic and we were already excited about the bounty of jobs that would for sure be available to the thousands of unemployed Irish by Monday evening. Sure, maybe every little thing is gonna be all right after all. Didn’t ICTU, SIPTU and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary all echo the promise of Lisbon?
“I’ve just arrived,” pants Labour’s Paul Donnelly, “and I’m very relieved. I was very worried that it might be a No result. I feel much safer now.”
The Shinners are clearly coping better than disconsolate Cóir campaigners, who invoke God and mutter oaths about fraud, perjury and Judas.
Enter Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Monaghan town delivered a strong No vote, as did County Donegal.
“I’m disappointed, not only for Sinn Féin but for the Irish people and for Ireland’s interests in Europe in the years ahead.
“Over a half a million euro was spent by Minister Mícheál Martin’s department on propaganda across the state, propagating the indebtedness of Ireland to Europe for what it has brought to our shores.
“Despite all the propaganda from the Yes side, a tremendous No vote remains solid and those people have to be congratulated and commended. At the end of the day, they are the strong defence line for Irish democracy in the future.”
Dublin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh is pragmatic about the whole thing and focuses on the road ahead for Sinn Féin.
“It’s obviously a bad day when you lose a referendum but the core working-class areas voted No, just not in the numbers required. The working-class areas didn’t benefit from the Celtic Tiger and they didn’t benefit from the EU and they don’t trust this government. There’s a job of work ahead of us to ensure that these people’s issues are represented.”
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún throws up some interesting reflections in relation to the ludicrous insinuations on the Yes side in relation to job creation and about the increasing confusion, both at home and abroad, about the whole palaver around the second referendum.
“I hope that those in the Yes campaign who insisted that this was a treaty for jobs will now ensure that there are jobs,” Bairbre says.
“The Government and others in the Yes campaign ran the campaign not on the content of the treaty but on the fear of what would happen if there was another No result – ungrounded fears that Ireland would be left isolated in times of economic crises. That’s not how the EU works and the Government hasn’t helped the understanding in Ireland of how Europe works by pushing this line during the campaign.”
Bairbre says there will be disappointment in parts of Europe at the result but most of all there will be confusion.
“There will be disappointment in parts of Europe but more importantly the question most often asked of me was why we were voting for a second time. When people gave an answer, why did they have to vote until they gave the answer others wanted?
“Not only has the Irish Government put a question mark in the minds of Irish people over how Europe works but they’ve also put a question mark in the minds of other Europeans about how Ireland works.”
As the song goes, “Ireland is a very funny place sir”, a place where, if you say it often and fast enough, ‘Níl’ means ‘Tá’ and valid opinion means nothing if it doesn’t comply with the Government’s agenda – a brass-necked government that’s played blinders that would confound Confucius himself. Sure, how would you expect the Europeans to get it at all? And they don’t.
Monday morning and one European arrives at the Sinn Féin Bookshop for the Rebel Walking Tour.
“I’m French,” he says, “and I’m sad and confused. It’s too much. I try not to think about it. You Irish are able to laugh, even when you’re in the shit.”
Tá-d out: People were frightened into voting Yes