Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reflections on my own campaign

It's time for us all to look at the way the Lisbon campaign panned out. First off the margin of the local vote was a small victory. To be one of only ten constituencies to vote Yes, if only by a margin of four votes at least gave us the satisfaction of quietening the Shinners at the count centre.
For my own part I was happy to be complimented on local radio as having run the best campaign in Kilkenny. I had a highly visible poster campaign in the city area, and dropped over 4,000 leaflets into most houses in the city. I managed to canvass almost 1,000 houses while doing a number of public street events also.
I was happiest with the photo opportunity I organised where Labour, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green party politicians came together to support the treaty.
To the negatives, the complaints from some about my poster design were valid. This was a National design, and the prominence of the Yes message was too small. The posters also failed to hit the simple message strategy that much of the No campaign did.
On reflection, we did spend far too much time on the defensive and teams which defend too much generally lose the game.
The failure to restate the gains we have made from EU membership, and the bravery to seek those benefits for other newer members was a mistake. The Yes campaign lacked a vision, a positive message to enthuse people. Many of those who we eventually persuaded to vote Yes did so reluctantly.
Finally, the campaign never showed serious intent. Brian Cowen's exhortations to his party to fight for the treaty like it was a General election just never happened. In our own party too, it was difficult to get members active. Maybe we all presumed thatthe voters wouldn't ' do Nice' on us and themselves again.we should never take them for granted again.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bronach ataimid- a bad day's work

Rarely have I felt as depressed as I do today by a political decision. After three weeks of postering canvassing texting blogging and harrassing I have to reflect on the will of the Irish people. As a democrat I will defend the right of the people to make what I consider to be a disastrous mistake but I really am at a loss as to what will happen next.
There is a flippancy and even a bit of arrogance in our presuming that 'they'll put it right' and that we'll get another chance to prove ourselves 'Good Europeans' but I get the feeling watching EU leaders over the past 24 hours that we may have tested their patience once too often.
As a socialist and trade unionist I am appalled that Irish workers have given Margaret Thatcher and the European right the biggest political victory of this generation. The Social Charter has been the holy grail of the left and European Trade Union movement for all my adult and took twenty years to make it into the laws of Union. I hope Jack O' Connor, SIPTU and the so-called left-wingers in Sinn Fein and the Socialist party can find a way of explaining to my children how they talked their way out of the best list of workers rights ever secured for our community.
The ball is now in our court however and a few important questions now need to be answered:
1. Do we really want to be part of the EU or not. Being so while thinking we can reject complex treaties painstakingly negotiated by all the national Governments including our own doesn't sit well with that assertion.
2. What does democracy mean to us? The idea that we must uniquely insist on holding referenda every few years on complex agreements and reject them because 'I don't understand it' is puzzling to the citizens of the 26 other democracies who gave their elected Governments the right to interpret the treaty as being in their best interests. Are their politicians better or more trustworthy than ours? I for one am fed up of listening to people condemning our politicians yet walking out blindly as they did a year ago and putting them back into office.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Reasons to be Positive-Why Vote Yes on Thursday

Just my own story to start off with. In 1986 as Deputy President of the Union of Students in Ireland,I opposed the Single European Act, the first EU refendum in which I had a vote. I was convinced by the neutrality argument in particular, believing the stuff about a European army being created any day now!- See how much the message has changed?
Two things happened after that. Firstly I moved back to rural South Kerry in 1991 and began to see the reality of EU funding. As a community activist I saw the transformation for local communities brought about by funding through initiatives like the LEADER programme, which my wife managed in the area. The insistence by the EU on genuine community consultation and empowerment was totally different from National Government approaches. The EU really believes in 'bottom-up' development and the principle of subsidiarity or the making of decisions at local level,a message the people of disadvantaged communities were starving to hear.

Also at around the same time I watched along with the world as the people of Bosnia and Kosovo were slaughtered in one of the worst genocides of the 20th century, while we stood by along with the west, crippled by our so-called neutrality. I believed then and do now that our neutrality should be a force for good, not a Pontius Pilate reason for sitting on our hands while innocent people die, and yes if that means that we as Europeans should have a peace-keeping or even intervention force to prevent genocide, that's ok by me. Try reading Samantha Power's wonderful yet disturbing book on genocide if you need convincing.

Since Maastricht then I've been enthusiastically in favour of deepening European unity and will continue to fight for the world's most successful peace process in history.