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World

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Sueurs froides à Dublin

by Bernard Duraud

Cold Sweat in Dublin

Translated Wednesday 11 June 2008, by Henry Crapo

Referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon

The polls give a slight advantage to the partisans of the "Yes", but
suspense is complete concerning the eventual outcome of the referendum on
the issue of ratification of the "simplified treaty"

Dublin, special envoy

The Irish will decide by referendum, this Thursday, on the Treaty of
Lisbon, the resurrected form of the project for a European constitution
rejected in 2005 by the French and the Dutch peoples. Being the only
country in the European Union to submit this decision to referendum, a
procedure required by its constitution, Ireland is in the claws of doubt
and indecision, as polls repeatedly show, these past six months.
Suddenly the Irish scenario of 2001 during the ratification of the Treaty
of Nice (there was a "No" vote of more than 58%) is no longer an absurd
hypothesis, and can well block the European institutional
machine.

Many are undecided

Up until now, the "Yes" camp seemed capable of winning, since a poll dated
25 May published by the Sunday Business Post gave the "Yes" 41% of the
votes, with 33% for the "No", 26% being undecided. (34% in April, more
than double the figure for the end of 2007). But if the partisans of the
treaty seem to be leading the race, they fail to open a lead on their
rivals, who, by force of argument and explanations, manage to nibble away
at the terrain.

The pressure seems to be at its maximum. Taking into account their
previous misadventures, the Dublin government has injected more than 6
million euros into the campaign. Under investigation by the courts, with a
corruption scandal at hand, and under attack by the opposition, Bertie
Ahern of the Fianna Fail (center right party) was forced to
resign his post as "taoiseach" (prime minister) in mid-May,
after 11 months as head of the government, in order to avoid a vote of sanction.
The task of his successor, vice prime minister and minister of finance, Brian Cowen,
and his allies in the coalition government (including the Green party)
has been to underline the urgency of a victory for the "Yes". And this
man, coming from a rural county of Offaly did not fail to mobilize every last
politician and media spokesman in order to
avoid repeating the psycho-drama of 2001 (the Treaty of Nice finally
adopted one year later). So he was in charge of the European dossier.

The majority of the political parties represented in Parliament call for
ratification of the treaty: the Fianna Fail, the Fine Gael (center left),
principal opposition party led by Enda Kenny, The Workers’ Party (Lab) and
the little Progressive Democratic Party (PD). The Green party is divided
(60% favorable to the treaty, at their congress in January), the militants
joining one camp or the other on the basis of their personal opinions.
Before his resignation, Bernie Ahern had predicted the worst in the event
of a victory of the "No", putting to the fore the responsibility of the
Irish people, and reminding the electorate on many occasions that the
nation, great beneficiary of regional structural funds, owed much to
Europe. Not deviating from this political line, his successor, once in power,
launched the appeal "Say yes to opening up, yes to a new Europe, and no at
last to totalitarianism — don’t listen to those who say we will be
submerged." One could hardly be more caricatural.

Sizable reinforcement for the camp of the "Yes", the last-minute rallying
of the farmers, following the rally of the milk producers. Tuesday, the
powerful Farmers’ Association , counting 85,000 members, worried by the
fall in exports of its produce, decided to support the treaty, promised
"support" of the prime minister during negotiations with the WTO. Cowen in
effect said he was "ready" to use his veto if the agreement turned out to
be unfavorable to Ireland. "We will contact our members across the
country, as well as all those working in the agrobusiness sector and food
production, to urge them to vote "Yes", said their president, Padraig
Walshe, who a few days earlier had called for a contrary vote. The
propositions of the European commissioner Peter Mandelson could, in his
opinion, lead to the loss of 100,000 jobs in agriculture and the food
industry in Ireland, and cost 4 billion euros to the economy of the
country.

The camp of the "No" counts on the parties of the left, the middle
classes, and those abandoned by the "Celtic tiger", hit hard by the drop
in development, by the real estate crisis, by unemployment and a rise in
inflation. This political sector includes also a segment of the Catholic
right opposed to any liberalization of abortion, and of xenophobes who
claim that the treaty will rob Ireland of its control over its
frontiers. On the left, 11 organizations including the Sinn Fein,
represented in Parliament, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of
Ireland (PCI), the workers’ party and the Irish antiwar movement, have
created a collective and committee for the "No". This committee campaigns
to avoid any infringement to the tradition of military neutrality (a
policy of defense and common security),
against the lack of democracy in the treaty, its infringement of Irish
sovereignty, and equally against the attacks on social rights and public
services, the lavish gifts made toward privatization. Their arguments have
snow-balled, giving cold sweat to the European leaders sent these recent
weeks to Dublin to bring the good word concerning the Treaty of Lisbon.
For example, the president of the Commission in Brussels, in April: "In
case of a ’No’ there will be no ’Plan B’". Does this remind you of
anything?


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