by Joe Higgins (December 2007)
The smear campaign against those of us who will campaign for a 'No' vote in next year's EU Reform Treaty is already under way - a full seven months out.
Last week Sean McConnell, The Irish Times Agricultural correspondent, wandered into a press conference in Strasbourg organised by Jean Marie Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, one of the most repulsive, right wing and xenophobic parties in the EU.
Le Pen is asked if he would travel to Ireland to help groups opposed to the Treaty and predictably answers? 'Obviously I would have to be invited to go and I would have no hesitation in going to oppose it.' This finds its way onto the front page of the Irish Times of October 25 th under the headline 'Le Pen may come to Ireland to oppose EU treaty in poll.' And for good measure we are told that Le Pen's associates in the European Parliament are Mussolini's daughter and various other far right, anti immigrant parties.
In Moscow, around the same time as Le Pen's press conference, a man dubbed 'the chessboard murderer' was convicted of callously killing 48 unfortunate people. Alexander Puchishkin told the court that killing was like 'falling in love'. Too bad the Irish Times wasn't in the body of the court. 'Hey Alex, any chance you might be interested in coming to Ireland next year to campaign against the EU Reform Treaty?' Faced with the prospect of rotting in a Russian jail for the rest of his life, he would be unlikely to say 'niet', giving us a new headline , 'Serial killer may come to Ireland to oppose EU treaty.' And we might even be informed that he would be accompanied by the ghost of the Rostov Ripper executed in Russia in 1994 for murdering 52 people.
Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny, took his cue from that morning's Irish Times as he warns, 'Every headbanger in Europe will probably be in Ireland when the referendum takes place.' His EU Spokesperson, Billy TimminsTD, reminded us that, when it comes to anti treaty headbangers, 'we have many of them at home.'
Fine Gael's anxiety is palpable as Kenny goes on to explain, 'The eyes of 500 million people will be on this country next year, as the only country voting in a referendum on the reform treaty.' Taoiseach Bertie Ahern agrees that, 'we need to cooperate closely on tactics for the referendum,' bearing in mind that 'we will not be dealing with the issue within our own shores only but will also draw attention from outside.'
So there we have it. The Irish voters are the only possible roadblock in the way of the latest neoliberal project of the EU's economic and political establishment dominated by the multinational corporations and their tools in member state parliaments. Woe betide the Irish establishment should it fail to deliver the correct result. Expect, then, most media, the churches, trade union leaders and many more besides to be pressed into service for the 'Yes' side.
A campaign of abuse against treaty opponents might indicate a lack of confidence even with the Green Party joining the establishment side. We know this for sure since Fianna Fail Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, told us definitively in the Dail on Thursday. 'All parties represented at the Cabinet table - the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats and ourselves' - are in favour of the reform treaty as agreed last week.' Where does that leave the Special Convention of Green Party members?
Those of us who oppose this EU treaty from an internationalist, anti xenophobic and Left perspective and are campaigning instead for a workers' Europe that is democratic and socialist, are determined that there will be a genuine debate . We will cry 'foul' when predictable sections of the media will no doubt repeat variations on the Le Pen theme.
We will show whose policies really can be said to emanate from 'headbangers'. Like forcing us to pay higher electricity prices to guarantee profits for private capitalists coming into the energy sector to 'create competition'. But isn't competition supposed to be about bringing down prices? Well yes but...
And a similar scenario for our postal services. The EU says An Post must have private competitors. So a few brave hearts will no doubt serve the corporate sector's postal needs in areas of dense population but 'handling your granny's postcards is unlikely' as the private TNT Mail UK Chief Executive cynically put it, and certainly not delivering them to the farther ends of the Erris and Inishowen peninsulas. So with the most profitable sectors of the postal service cherry picked, prices will rise for the ordinary people.
A debate on which economic direction the EU is headed, for whose benefit and at whose instigation will indeed be hugely instructive. That is why we must not allow the 'Yes' smear campaign succeed in obscuring the truth.