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Lisbon Two

Catherine Reilly
22 June 2009

So Ireland’s Lisbon 2 will soon be upon us, and one wonders whether the sequel lives up (or down) to the original. Are the mysterious characters, confusing plotline and cliff-hanger ending of the first instalment about to make a reappearance?

Catherine Reilly is deputy editor of Metro Eireann, Ireland’s multicultural weekly

Methinks not, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, one of the unexpected stars of Lisbon 1 has exited stage left. Libertas founder Declan Ganley –a mysterious Ango-Irish multi-millionnaire with financial interests in the US military – will not be gracing the arena, following his defeat in the European Parliament election in Ireland’s North West constituency - and Libertas’ poor showing Europe-wide.

Variously described as an ego-inflated moneybags, a well-meaning reformist or a financially-motivated shadowy sort, Ganley was the charismatic focal point of last year’s ‘No’ efforts. He was a bolt from the blue, a good speaker who well-articulated people’s fears and distrust of Eurocrats, but his fall from grace has been as dramatic as his rise. It’s presently unclear to me why Libertas is capitulating in Ireland. Ganley is not short of a buck, and while his European Parliament election failure was embarrassing, it was hardly a curtain call. Perhaps he senses that, this time around, he’ll be on a hiding to nothing.

Who will fill that void? Newly-elected socialist MEP Joe Higgins is probably the closest to a leader that No campaigners can rally around.

But Higgins is a known entity who, although vaguely admired, won’t exactly surprise or inspire with his rhetoric, which Irish people are well used to.

He has predicted that the Irish Government will “terrify the people” into voting Yes “because of the catastrophic economic crisis”. Well, the people are already fairly terrified and no special effects will be necessary to further frighten, a simple ‘boo’ will suffice.

In any case, the salvaging of a permanent Irish Commissioner and what appear to be legally-binding guarantees assuring Ireland of its independent policy on various issues such as taxation, security, defense, abortion, and workers' rights will lend this forthcoming campaign a very different plotline.

According to research released in March at University College Dublin’s Geary Institute, concerns about the loss of a permanent Commissioner was a “substantial consideration” for those who voted No. The study also noted that the failure to reassure people that voting Yes would not lead to interference in issues such as corporate taxation, abortion and conscription into a ‘European Army’, were substantial reasons behind the No.

But the study also noted another big factor in the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, and in my view, the overriding cause: people didn’t know what it was all about. With Lisbon 2 planned for early October, the coming weeks will demonstrate whether Brian Cowen’s Government is able to deliver the information in plain language to the electorate.

After all, since when did complicated plotlines have mainstream appeal?

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