19 September 2002 Edition

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Nice II - The Establishment strikes back


Forget wholesale economic collapse if we vote No. We will also have to contend with a number of other threats, including "Americanisation" and "neo-fascism". The Leinster House debate on Nice pushed the Yes camp into overdrive this week with a growing queue of campaigners vying for attention all trying to outdo themselves with dire predictions if we dare to vote No again. Academics, government advisers, trade unionists and employers all said their piece.

So as the voters braced themselves for another week of threats and warnings, we highlight the best of the Yes groups as the EU power brokers seek to quietly extend their influence.


While some of us might believe that EU institutions have too much power and cannot be brought to account on how they wield it, there are those who think that not enough power is being centralised within EU structures.

Last week, Giorgio La Malfa, a senior economist within the Italian government, and EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes, made separate cases for centralising yet more power in the European Central Bank (ECB) and the EU Commission.

La Malfa, speaking at the Institute of European Affairs in Dublin, said he wants to see the ECB be given responsibility for growth and unemployment. Highlighting many of the ECB's obvious deficiencies, La Malfa believes that the solution is to press forward and give yet more powers to a seriously flawed and completely unaccountable institution.

Pedro Solbes want the EU Commission to be given powers to force member states change economic policies when they are deemed not to be compatible with the EU norm. Solbes believes that the 15 member states are not capable or willing to censure each other. His solution is to give this power to the Commission.

So it seems that while the coalition government talk endlessly about putting the 26 Counties at the heart of the EU, the EU is moving the goalposts ever further away from the actual member states and making a nonsense of the collective platitudes of Ahern, Harney and the other ministers.


Fianna Fáil senator and Dublin government adviser Martin Mansergh gave some interesting reasons in last week's Leinster House debates on why we should vote yes as well as giving one of his tedious political treatises and another argument for scrapping the senate - the sheer boredom factor.

A No vote would be a disaster according to Mansergh who accused Sinn Féin of having little sense of history. Finally from the Mansergh mind came the trump card. Voting No could create the ideal breeding ground for a neo-fascist advance in Europe.


Two weeks ago history professor Brigid Laffan was bemused and comparing Sinn Féin's position on Nice with that of Tory Eurosceptics. Last week, Laffan said that the rejection of Nice was the biggest political shock to the Irish political system since the 1918 election. Interesting that she didn't note that in both cases the political establishment of the day tried to ignore the result of the respective votes.

This time around, according to Laffan, "the stakes could not be higher". Also interesting was Laffan's analysis of why a No vote was bad. It would draw attention to the fact that we had a disproportionate level of representation in EU institutions. Interesting that yet another Yes campaigner plays on the threat of EU retribution for voting No. Who wants to be at the heart of this Europe?


With ¤250,000 already raised from its members, employers' organisation IBEC has announced it will be spending ¤500,000 campaigning for a Yes vote. One wonders if IBEC are being secretly briefed by Bertie Ahern as to the actual referendum date. Ahern has yet to actually say what date the referendum will be on, but the IBEC billboard, poster and explanatory booklet campaign will begin next week.

De Rossa democracy

Prionsias De Rossa is one of those few members of the political establishment who has campaigned for and against EU referenda and this week the Labour MEP was speaking in favour of the Nice Treaty at a Forum on Europe debate.

De Rossa favours a Yes vote because we should not hold the people of Eastern and Central Europe "hostage" to the 26 Counties internal debate. DeRossa believes that the place for debate on Europe is the 26 County Forum on Europe, which has no power or in the Convention on Europe, which has no representatives from the No campaign in the Irish nominees.

Funnily enough, De Rossa does have a seat at the convention, so maybe he was confusing himself having a say with it being a democratic debate on behalf of the Irish people. Now, after all these years, we finally understand democratic centralism!


The ICTU have called for a yes vote in the referendum and offered a new reason why. A No vote would lead to the "Americanisation of Europe", an analysis similar to that offered by independent Senator Joe O'Toole last week. It seems the Yes campaign have their lines crossed, as the Dublin government have been claiming that a No vote will lead to a fall in US investment in the Irish economy. So who do we believe?

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