A Lisbon Catastrophe

Catherine Reilly
11 September 2009
The Catastrophe. That's what they'll call it. The term's inappropriateness won't matter because, in their minds, that's exactly what it'll be. Make no mistake, as each calendar day replaces the next, Europe and Ireland's political elite, the masterminds of Lisbon 1 and 2, are slowly spreading their ink-tarred fingers over their eyeballs, peaking out if they dare.

If I were them, I'd probably not look either, because the nightmare situation - that Ireland's recession-beaten public will use a Lisbon No as a battering ram to force out their 'inept' Government - is potentially unfolding.

Last week, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin peaked over the parapet and admitted that, yes, the Irish Government has quite a battle on its hands to get the 2nd of October referendum passed. A tough one, in fact. His admission came after an Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll showed that over the summer, support for Lisbon had declined (although the Yes side still leads on 46 per cent , the No's on 29 per cent, and Don't Knows on 25 per cent).

Of course, Martin didn't want to peer at the ballroom dance partners that are the declining Yes camp and the increasing dissatisfaction with Government. He dare'nt mention the war. After all, plant a seed, grow an oak. But anti-treaty groups haven't been slow to switch the spotlights on.

In remarks described as "simplistic" by the European Commission, Kieran Allen, a socialist involved with voteno.ie, remarked: "Each of the bank bailouts that have occurred has received the express permission of the EU Commission. This same body prohibits the Irish State providing aid to save jobs, but it gives full support to bank bailouts. The Lisbon Treaty gives the EU Commission greater oversight role on state budgets - and this is reason enough to vote No."

Worryingly for the Irish Government, such views are predominant because Ireland is not the land of saints and scholars right now, it's the planet of pissed off people. The solar system, even. Unemployment is at a 14-year high, at over 12 per cent - and likely to rise to 15per cent by the year's end. This will mean that, by 2010's dawn, an unprecedented 500,000 walk the unemployment lines. Happy new year, and many more etc etc.

And as disgruntlement and despair grows, anger is mounting at the Government's plan to bail out banks and property developers - the oily snaked bad-guys of Ireland's economic meltdown. The Government has proposed a National Asset Management Agency (Nama) to basically act as a 'bad bank', taking property and development loans, worth up to €90bn, off the main banks' books and transferring them to Nama. Its argument is that this will get credit flowing again, although ironically, the pros and cons of this proposal - which the Irish parliament will begin debating next week - are as complicated as, you guessed it, the text of the Lisbon Treaty.

So the public smells a rat, even two, and that's why it's hands-over-eyes time on those smooth-carpeted corridors, as nightmare veers towards catastrophe.

Catherine Reilly is deputy editor of Metro Eireann, Ireland's multicultural weekly (www.metroeireann.com)

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