This crack on my ass? For sitting on the fence.

The Stability/Fiscal/Austerity Treaty Referendum takes place tomorrow.  I’ve voted in, I think, six general elections and 15 previous referenda.  Plus some local and presidential elections.

Tomorrow will be the first referendum where I’ve been in the country for a vote, and won’t be exercising my democratic mandate.

Oh, I’ll visit the polling station, all right – but I’ll be spoiling my vote.  As some sort of pointless gesture, maybe.  But at least it’ll be recorded.

So why have I come to this (non) decision?  Because, I think, both sides have good arguments, and both sides have really bad arguments, and both sides have people campaigning for them who make me want to vote for the other side, and… well.  Let’s look at some of the arguments.

Reasons to vote for the treaty:

  • We will need access to funding in 2014 and we’ll possibly have to pay more if we’re not “in”.
  • It takes power away from our own politicians.  They’re corrupt, or inept, or constrained, or shortsighted, or only interested in parish pump-ism to get re-elected, or a combination of the above.  Even the crowd I normally support.  Taking power away from them and giving it to slightly less corrupt/inept people in the EU would be an improvement.
  • It makes sense that you’d force your politicians to live within budget, just like households do.  Or, more accurately, that you’d force your politicians to live slightly beyond their budget – because if the limit is 3% of GDP, they’ll use 3% of GDP.
  • Lots of economists reckon we should probably vote yes, because the alternative is probably worse.  Probably.

Reasons presented to vote for the treaty which are, most probably, bollocks:

  • “Market confidence”, “self-confidence”, “certainty” and suchlike.  Yeah, right.  We’re still broke, the dole queues are still increasing, more people are still emigrating – passing this treaty will not help that one iota.
  • “Respect” from the “markets”.  Uh-huh.  They don’t care whether or not we’ve signed up, they just care whether or not they’ll get paid.  And we seem determined to pay.  Even if it’s not our debt.  Even if they’re surprised when we do pay them.

Reasons to vote against the treaty:

  • It’s effectively unfinished.  We don’t know all the small print.  Why would we sign up now, without knowing everything?
  • We don’t need to sign up now.  The big boys, France and Germany, aren’t.  We can hold off to see if they sign up, and under what conditions.
  • Really, what is up with Article 32?  That’s the one that says: “The ESM, its property, funding and assets, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process except to the extent that the ESM expressly waives its immunity for the purpose of any proceedings or by the terms of any contract, including the documentation of the funding instruments.”

Reasons presented to vote against the treaty which are, most probably, bollocks:

  • “It’s a vote for austerity.  And household charges.  And water charges.”  No, it isn’t.  It’s a vote for attempting to force our politicians to not overspend, which is just common sense.  And voting “no” will in no way remove or lessen the household or water charges.  There will be austerity whether we vote yes, or whether we vote no.

Other factors:

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, Enda.  Our Taoiseach.  The man who says this referendum is more important than a general election.  And he won’t debate it on TV or radio.  To deny the no side a platform, apparently.  Cos that worked.  Or made any sense.  (Surely you want a really poor debater like Gerry Adams to be given a platform?)  The man is either very, very clever, or his handlers reckon he would have blown the referendum.  Either way, he has treated the electorate with utter disdain.  Shame on him.
  • Downright misinformation from Sinn Féin.  And others, in fairness.  But they’re the most prominent.
  • The government’s leaflets attempting to masquerade as Referendum Commission leaflets.

So my ballot paper will read something along the lines of “Maybe.  But not just yet.  Come and ask me again when we know all of the details, and when we know what the main financers of the ESM, France and Germany, will actually be doing, or not doing, and when we’ve seen some good faith from the EU via a write-down in our bank debt.”

Also, I vote for Dustin.

Media moratorium?

There seems to be a news blackout on – not the bloody treaty – but the reporting of Newspaper Licensing Ireland’s attempt to charge charities (and possibly others) for linking to newspaper articles via hyperlinks.  First revealed by McGarr Solicitors, acting for Women’s Aid, there are some more developments, but these are reported only in the blogosphere – the story has received no coverage in Irish newspapers to date.  But – maybe because they’re not a client of NLI – the New York Observer has picked it up, so maybe we will eventually see the Irish newspapers publishing a paragraph or two on an NLI EGM where the members told the permanent employees to cop themselves on?

Tourists go home!

Tourism Ireland spends millions abroad encouraging people to visit, and this country desparately needs the resulting “invisble exports”. However, other arms of the state seek to prevent visitors.

A colleague’s wife was due to give birth to her second child two weeks ago. Her parents applied for a tourist visa in early March. Their intention was to arrive shortly before the due date, help out with childcare for the first couple of weeks, and take a well deserved holiday while they were here, visiting the tourist attractions they have heard so much about.

My colleague’s father-in-law has been working for over 30 years and is a fulltime university lecturer. He and his wife own their own home outright. They had to supply documentary evidence of this and of their (quite comfortable) financial situation with their visa application.

They learned yesterday (two weeks after their grandson’s birth) that their visa application has been refused for “financial reasons” and because it was feared that they would not leave the state when their visa expired. They’d give up a home, family, job and comfortable lifestyle to do what, exactly, in Ireland? They would be entitled to no income from the state here and could not work.

Instead of benefitting from their tourist spend and word-of-mouth advertising to friends, family and colleagues, they have been left with a bitter experience. Their daughter will instead travel home for a couple of months with her children. We promote tourism in some developing countries and relax visa requirements (e.g., India), but visitors from neighbouring Pakistan seem to be actively discouraged. Is it a religious thing?

Copyright Reform

If you care about copyright reform in Ireland (and it effects you, so you should), then you could do a lot worse than comment or contribute to this joint Copyright Reform submission.  If you happen to not agree with the general thrust of that submission, then there will at some point in the near future be a downloadable version that you can alter to your heart’s content and send as your own submission.

Politician in “Cynicism in campaign” shock

I still don’t know how to vote in the Fiscal/Stability/Austerity Treaty.  Both sides are being directly contradictory of each other – which is fair enough, it’s what usually happens in a referendum.  But the treaty is complex and the headline points being advertised by both sides require further reading.

Spokespersons from both camps(*) have made some very good points – it’s just really a case of guessing which of them will be proven to have been correct, one, three or five years down the line.

An exception – Paul Murphy, the Socialist Party MEP.  His posters say “Reject home and water taxes. Vote No.”

Bollocks.

What, a majority vote ‘no’ to the treaty, and the household charge will be rescinded?  The plans for water meters will be shelved?  My arse they will.  The country will still be broke and will still need to pursue higher taxes/lower expenditure for many years, at least until its budgets are somewhat more balanced.  We all know this.  So don’t pretend otherwise on your posters, in the hopes of attracting a few more votes from people who haven’t the time, energy or interest to educate themselves further on the matter.  There are plenty of genuine reasons to promote a no vote without resorting to such dis-ingenuousness.

It’s bullshit like this that may actually get me to make up my mind – and vote for the side that isn’t resorting to such cynical tricks.

(*)  Apart, of course, from Enda.  Where is our Taoiseach?  Why is he not participating in any debates?

Unelected man expresses opinions!

An unelected person spouting off their personal opinions is not something I can complain about, I suppose, since I do the very same thing quite regularly in a variety of forums.

But Declan Ganley is back, and the Sunday Business Post have given him a platform to talk about the European Fiscal/Stability/Austerity Treaty.  (That link may or may not work – the Sunday Business Post is normally behind a paywall, but Ganley tweeted a link – http://t.co/LCLjdenr – which brought me to the article).

Ganley, of course, is the businessman with ties to the American military, and the founder of Libertas – the pan-European euroskeptic party that managed to get only a single candidate elected in the last European elections.  And there was some controversy over bills being paid.  Ganley himself failed to get elected, but being unelected has never stopped him from getting regular high-profile spots in the media, be it print or radio.  The rest of us make do with blogs…  In any case, courtesy of politics.ie, we find that Libertas is back, and it’s campaigning for a ‘No’ vote in the Fiscal/Stability/Austerity Treaty.

Ganley’s SBP article is a two-parter.  We can safely ignore the first half, which is blog-standard rhetoric.  The second half is more interesting, setting out his stall for why we should vote ‘No’, alongside his vision for a renewed, more democratic, more accountable EU.  Euroskeptic stuff, it’s not – or at least it doesn’t read that way.  (Though bear in mind it’s early on a Sunday and I’m only on my second coffee).  A lot of it makes sense – again, on a first read.  And I’m pro-Europe.  He makes some good points on the treaty.  For instance, I’d be interested in hearing a rebuttal to his questioning of Article 32, which states:

“The ESM, its property, funding and assets, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process except to the extent that the ESM expressly waives its immunity for the purpose of any proceedings or by the terms of any contract, including the documentation of the funding instruments.”

Total immunity from prosecution?  What’s up with that?

A feature of the last few referenda has been that, for me at least, you could only tell which way to vote by seeing who was saying ‘Vote No!’.  Because while there may have been merits to both sides, all of the loons seemed to gather on one side – the ‘No’ camp.  And then you’d vote the other way.

The ‘No’ campaign seems to be kicking off in earnest.  Paul Murphy MEP is somehow tying in water and household charges to the treaty (why?), and SF are saying to vote No because that’s consistent with their position on every EU treaty ever.  But some of Ganley’s arguments actually make sense. In the meantime, the ‘Yes’ campaign seems to consist entirely of posters saying to vote ‘Yes’, but not really saying why.  Oh, and both sides accuse the other of bullying.

Okay, the polls say the ‘Yes’ campaign is winning, but it needs to persuade people to actually go out and vote.  I’ve received no reason to do so, so far, apart from a vague “Er, cheaper loans?  When we look for a second bailout.  Which we absolutely, categorically do not need!  Because the Troika say we’re on track.”  Though I must say the idea of enshrining into law the basic concept of “Thou shalt not spend recklessly beyond your means as if ye were a Fianna Fáil politician buying an election” does kind of appeal.

All of which leaves me with another two weeks to make my mind up, I suppose…

Enda won’t “do” Vincent

It’s nothing to do with the right-wing Catholics in his party (the anti-gay Creighton and the anti-“fornication” Mulherin), but Enda won’t “do” Vincent Browne.  Thankfully, he’s only referring to a live TV debate on the Fiscal/Stability/Austerity/Call-it-what-you-will Treaty.  And also thankfully, VB has offered to step aside, so we might yet get to see a leaders’ debate.  Just as well, as Gerry Adams also previously avoided a VB debate and Enda has been doing his best to avoid everyone.

So Enda wouldn’t talk to Gerry, at least in front of VB.  Gerry wouldn’t talk in front of VB either, but changed his mind.  As long as he didn’t have to talk to Micheál Martin.  And nobody wants to hear from O’Cuiv.  Which is perfectly understandable.

But really – this treaty is supposed to be critical to Ireland’s future.  “More important than a general election,” according to Taoiseach Kenny.  Despite which, Enda still said no, he wasn’t going to go on TV3 because of some remarks Vincent Browne made in the past (for which he apologised).

So either the Taoiseach is lying about the importance of the referendum; or he’s telling the truth – the referendum really is more important than a general election – but he ranks his own pride above either.

Either way – when presented with an opportunity to debate with Adams, who has never been stellar in face-to-face debates, why didn’t Kenny leap at the chance?