The Irish struggle is our struggle

20 June 2009

The Irish struggle is our struggle

Harry van Bommel

This week the heads of state and government of the European Union gather to discuss, amongst other things, the Irish 'no' to the Treaty of Lisbon. They will try to put the Irish people's minds at rest, saying that their objections have been answered, so that a second referendum in the autumn will result in a 'yes'.

Harry van BommelThe Irish people's concerns centre on the threat of a European influence on taxation, abortion law, social provision, and neutrality in time of war. Unlike most EU member states, Ireland is not a member of NATO and can therefore not be forced to offer military support in the event of war. On the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, however, they could indeed be obliged to provide such support. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Irish fear that the treaty will undermine their neutrality.

During the preparations for this European Summit I asked the Dutch Premier, Jan Peter Balkenende, how things stood precisely in relation to this Irish question. What would the Irish be promised in order to lure them into agreement? Balkenende's reply was that the Irish government had agreed that "all guarantees would be in keeping with the Lisbon Treaty." Well, I thought, whatever next? What this meant was that the Irish would not be allowed to take any exceptional position in relation to sections of the treaty as has happened, for example, in the case of the British. The demand from other member states is, in so many words, "no special status for Ireland when it comes to the question of neutrality."

Will this satisfy the Irish? And who is going to tell them? Certainly not the Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Ireland's Premier is an enthusiastic supporter of the Lisbon Treaty and does not favour his country being granted any exceptional positions. Moreover, many other heads of government will be extremely angry with Cowen should he fail to deliver a 'yes'.

The Irish peace movement has invited the SP to lend a helping hand in the campaign against the Lisbon Treaty. Under normal circumstances, my view is that you should keep your distance, on the basis of the principal that the Irish should handle their own affairs and fight their own battles. Now, however, the EU has made a great deal of money available for a propaganda campaign in favour of an Irish 'yes', while European heads of government seem to be having a laugh at Ireland's expense. This changes everything. That's why I have accepted an invitation from the Irish peace movement to talk about the Dutch 'no' to the European Constitution, and the way in which our government defied it by refusing to call a new referendum on the virtually identical Lisbon Treaty. Because the Irish are the only ones who can still stand up against this treaty, this is also in our own interest.

Their struggle, our struggle – international solidarity!

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