Ireland and the Nice Treaty

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The voters of the Republic of Ireland are preparing to vote on the Nice Treaty (this link requires Adobe Acrobat) expanding the European Union, not only geographically, but in terms of power as against the member states. Qualified majority voting, for example, will be extended to areas (such as industrial policy) which previously required unanimous votes for passage. The E.U. "common foreign and security policy" (CFSP) will also be expanded.

Independent MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Dana Rosemary Scallon has come out in opposition to the treaty, on the grounds that Ireland "would have no veto on industrial policy, structural funding, justice, foreign and home affairs." In short, all the trappings of national sovereignty would be gone.

As an American citizen of Irish descent , I confess to being surprised by predictions of the Irish vote. The Irish Times reports that, among likely voters, 45% favor the treaty, while 28% are opposed. The number of Irish voters with no opinion stands at 27%. In recent weeks, the gap between Yes and No votes has narrowed by 14%.

The Irish Times notes that

Support for the Nice Treaty is highest among supporters of the Progressive Democrats (65 per cent), Fianna Fail (51 per cent) and Labour (50 per cent). Surprisingly, the next most enthusiastic Nice supporters are Green Party supporters, with 49 per cent in favour and 30 per cent against…40 per cent of supporters of independent candidates and 38 per cent of Sinn Fein voters [are in favour].

This is a bit odd, since the ratification of the Nice Treaty appears to represent a retreat from a nearly 700-year long struggle for self-determination. After English invasion in the 1200s, the Irish did not regain their independence until 1948, when Eamon DeValera proclaimed Irish independence in 1948. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on one’s political leanings and domicile), only 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties thereby gained their freedom from English dominion. Six northern counties of Ulster today known as "Northern Ireland" remain part of "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (the formerly independent Scotland and Wales, with England, compose what is known as "Great Britain").

In that regard, the Irish Times observes that

The shift to the No camp has been accompanied by greater scepticism about European integration. Some 43 per cent said their view was closest to the statement that Ireland should do all it can to protect its independence from the EU.

And yet 45 per cent of Irish voters appear to favor the treaty in an election which has been characterized by a general apathy (whether this is due, in part, to Section 10.3 of the Radio and Television Act of 1988, which banned radio and television ads with religious or political dimensions , has not been discussed; Arizona senator John McCain take note).

To remedy this apathy, consider the arguments advanced by Garret Fitzgerald, writing in favor of the Nice Treaty in the Irish Times . First, Fitzgerald argues that

The Americans who are concerned about the ERRF [European Rapid Reaction Force, or "Eurocorps," of which I have prevsiouly come out in favor] believe that its emergence might strengthen the hands of isolationists in the US who argue for American disengagement from Europe. They fear that these isolationists will be tempted by the emergence of this new force to argue that Europe can look after itself and will no longer need US assistance through NATO to deal with crises in our region.

Although I take umbrage at the "isolationist" label, preferring the term "principled neutrality," "classical liberal," or "free trader," Fitzgerald raises an interesting point: what is the purpose of NATO, and what is the purpose of the ERRF? Since there are no European powers with the desire or the ability to take on the combined military might of the western European nations, it would seem that the collectivist-minded European and American elites want to keep NATO, and create the ERRF, in order to carry on yet more Somalia and Bosnia-style "humanitarian" missions.

Strangely, then, Fitzgerald contends that, in Europe, "capital punishment is now inconceivable." It may be if one considers only the death penalty as meted out by guillotine, gas chamber, lethal injection, or hanging, but it is certainly not inconceivable if one includes NATO bombs falling on Serbian heads.

Worse, Fitzgerald contends that "the EU has created a unique zone of peace, now stretching from Ireland to Bulgaria and from Portugal to Finland." In fact, the EU created nothing of the kind. Ireland has maintained a strict policy of neutrality since and including World War Two — when DeValera refused to let Churchill’s navy use Irish ports against Hitler.

If anyone has created peace in Europe, it is the United States, whose men and material were the decisive factors in winning the two world wars.

The only achievement in this regard which may be claimed by the E.U. is that no wars have broken out — well, at least no major ones (mustn’t focus too much on the Balkans) — on its watch.

Similarly, Fitzgerald argues that Europe "has created a worldwide movement to protect our global environment." First, perhaps the Europeans should stick to protecting their own environment, and leave others well enough alone. Second, the statement, if true, is a strong reason to oppose the expansion of the E.U., both geographically and in terms of powers over the member states, as the core of environmentalism is an anti-human, anti-capitalistic creed .

Finally, demonstrating that the forces of collectivism are alike on both sides of the Atlantic, Fitzgerald adds, in his description of No voters, that

Our far left and "republicans" have now been joined in their opposition to our EU involvement by right-wing religious elements preoccupied with a belief that the EU will impose godless values on our society.

So what’s an Irish voter to do? Think long and hard about the centuries-long, bloody and bitter struggle for Irish independence. Think long and hard about Wolfe Tone, Michael Collins, and Eamon DeValera. Think about the European Union, which only months ago sought to prohibit opposition speech directed at itself. Think also about the American experience in balancing power between state and federal governments, even where everything was in writing. Finally, Irish voters must think for themselves. No other course of action is compatible with liberty.

Mr. Dieteman [send him mail] is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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