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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Ireland’s “undemocratic” second Lisbon Treaty referendum

In last year’s Irish Lisbon Treaty referendum, turnout was 53.1%, with 53.4% voting No and 46.6% voting yes.

That’s 862,415 No voters – 28.3% of the Irish electorate, and just 0.17% of the EU’s population – holding up the ratification of a complex document that was the result of the best part of seven years’ worth of detailed negotiations between the governments of 27 states.

And yet, the opponents of the re-run referendum have been telling us for much of the last year, to ask the people of Ireland to vote again would be undemocratic.

Because, of course, allowing people *more* chances to express their views through the ballot box is precisely the opposite of democracy, right? And that’s before we even note that many of the people *opposing* a second referendum in Ireland have long been arguing that the UK’s 1975 referendum on EEC membership should have been re-run…

In other words, democracy is only democracy when you get the result you want. (The advocates of a No vote, on this point at least, are of entirely the same opinion as the pro-Lisbon EU elites who pushed the Irish government into asking its people to vote again.)

Although there are some good arguments to be made for voting No to Lisbon (it is, after all, a fairly shoddy compromise that no one’s really happy with), the debates in the run-up to last year’s referendum were characterised by seemingly deliberate propagation of lies and distortions by many on the No side.

Lisbon is easily the most confusing and impenetrable EU treaty ever tabled (and that’s saying something) – and the No campaigns understandably took full advantage of this fact. If you have any sense, you wouldn’t sign a legal document without having read and understood the small print – and yet that’s effectively what the Irish people were being asked to do (which is a large part of the reason why I still reckon that referenda on such complicated international treaties are a very silly idea).

But not satisfied with making just this sensible point, the No campaigns went a bit mental, pulling out a disparate series of outlandish claims – Lisbon will force strongly Catholic Ireland to introduce abortion clinics, to abandon its neutrality, to drop its minimum wage to just a euro eight-four an hour, etc. etc. etc.

Pretty much all of these claims were unfounded, stemming mostly from the vague nature of the treaty itself – it’s so very vague that in places it *could* be interpreted to be saying just about anything. Compromises – especially ones of international diplomacy – tend to be made in as vague language as possible to keep all parties happy, and to allow maximum leeway to those parties who are slightly less happy with the end result than others. Lisbon being in addition a legal compromise, the intention has always been that the details will be interpreted by the governments of the member states (and at last resort the judges) as and when disputes of interpretation crop up – just the same as pretty much any new law.

All of these unfounded No-camp claims also clouded the real issues at the heart of the treaty – important, significant issues that really did deserve to be looked at in detail by the Irish people before they cast their votes.

This time around, the No camp distortions having mostly been shown to be just that, debates have been rather more rational – instead of focussing on invented bogeymen (although some attempt has been made to resuscitate the same discredited claims as last time), much more discussion has centred around the key issue: is Lisbon good for Ireland; and would *not* ratifying the treaty have negative effects?

A far more sensible situation all round – even if the key issue of Lisbon’s impenetrability hasn’t been solved, and so most Irish voters were still little the wiser about what precisely it is they were voting for or against yesterday, at least the arguments have mostly been over things it *actually* contains rather than things that its opponents *claim* it contains.

Though results are as yet to be finalised – it looks as if turnout is down only a little, to around 50%.

And yet the extra year that the Irish people have been given to think about the implications of Lisbon – and to see that many of the claims of the No camp were unjustified – has seen a significant change in the Yes vote, with early indications suggesting c.60% voting in favour this time (according to the BBC).

Last time, based upon mostly false claims, the No camp managed to convince 862,000 Irish voters to back them.

This time – based on those vague initial results above – the Yes camp appears to have convinced around 915,000 to approve the treaty.

Democracy works based upon debate, discussion and deliberation of the issues, with the option with majority support after this process carrying the day. Democracy works by returning periodically to the people to allow them to re-think and to change their minds. For a healthy democracy, the more debate, discussion and deliberation the better – and the more chances for the people to change their minds, the better.

Last year, the genuine issues surrounding Lisbon were not really discussed in Ireland in the run-up to the referendum – only the distortions. The result was a No. This year, the debate has been based more in reality. The result is a Yes – and not only a yes, but a rather more convincing Yes than last year’s No.

So what now for the No-supporters’ claims that this whole process has been undemocratic? Are the people of Ireland wrong now, after being right last time? Were the No voters that secured the Treaty’s defeat last year – after a far shorter period to make up their minds – better-informed than the larger number of Yes voters this time, who had been given far more time to weigh up the pros and cons?

The people have spoken. Again. And they will speak again in the future, quite possibly changing their minds again and again and again and again. That’s how democracy works. You’re not happy with the result of a vote? Fine – make sure that next time your campaign is more convincing.

Short version? In any democratic society, politics is not a battle, it’s a war. Win some, lose some, but the fight always goes on.

(Of course, the Yes voters are still only 30% of the Irish electorate, and still only 0.18% of the EU’s population. They are still not a majority by any means. But they are, at least, a larger proportion than the No voters – in both referenda. That’s how democracy works. The majority? Well, it would seem that the majority of Irish voters simply don’t care one way or the other.)

8pm update: I was being too cautious. Final tally? 67% Yes on a turnout of 58% – turnout up, Yes vote more than two-thirds. Approximate calculations put that as about 1,180,000 Yes voters to just 584,000 Nos – last time it was 752,000 Yes, 862,000 No. That’s a pretty insane swing.

23 Comments

  1. Now when the result is fairly clear, there might be room for deliberation on the relative merits of representative democracy and referendums.

    In much hallowed Switzerland women suffrage was allowed at federal level only in 1971.

  2. Thank you, Nosemonkey, for a reasoned and balanced point of view.

    I do, however, think that you left out a major factor – that of the recession.

    In my view a post-democratic darkness has now settled over the EU; a democracy can not be run by individuals advised by corporatists. I do not believe that this situation can be changed and remain anti-EU.

    In my opinion the anti-EU argument has been defeated due to a lack of knowledge (as stated by you above) and a complete apathy amongst ordinary people.

    People such as myself must now fade into the night, pay our taxes and watch as the EU eats further into our lives.

    I feel bitter now – bitter enough for war. I despise this sun-tanned, silver-haired, self-serving class – this political clique with their phoney lawyers. God, how I despise them.

    Good luck to the Irish, you will not hear me speaking badly of you. You, like the people of the UK, are just pawns in a bigger game.

    I shan’t waste any more of your time, Nosemonkey. It’s time to pick up my guitar again and do some serious gardening. I’ve finished with all this political stuff.

    Good luck.

  3. I’m not a fan of referenda in general, but I don’t think it’s fair to compare this referendum with calls to run a referendum on British EU membership. A referendum on the EU now would not be asking the same question twice, firstly because the EEC/EU has changed, and secondly because you’re asking a different set of people – a large proportion of the 1975 electorate are now dead, and more than half of the current electorate couldn’t vote or hadn’t even been born in 1975. By comparison, in Ireland it is largely the same people being asked the same question – except that they’re better-informed, and the economic situation has had a dramatic impact on perceptions of where Ireland’s interests lie.

    Incidentally, if the UK held a referendum on EU membership (or on ‘renegotiating membership’) at some point in the future, what would happen if there were strong majorities among Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters favour of the status quo, but the UK as a whole voted to leave/renegotiate on account of English euroscepticism? When coupled with existing nationalist sentiment and a governing party that is popular only in England (ie the Conservatives), could this be enough to trigger a break-up of the UK?

  4. I think the turnout is 58%.

  5. Nosemonkey,

    So you didn`t like the Irish holding up the rest of the EU when they voted No, you thought it undemocratic (although the French and Dutch did more ).
    It seems alright now though, so you wont be asking for a best out of three in another 18 months .
    Sometimes I think you EUrophiles are reasonable people ,just with a different perspective of this topic . Other times you prove the deviousness of this project.

  6. Ralf Grahn hits the nail on the head.

    I’ve lived extensively in the western United States among states where referendums are fairly common place (ballots usually have a dozen or so on them). Let me tell you one thing: when California stripped the rights for gays to wed it was one of the most disgusting and gut-wrenching moments I’ve witnessed in my life. The same day a minority broke a glass ceiling by becoming President another minority got pounced on by having their existing rights stripped. A complete abuse and subversion of what constitutes modern liberal democracy by removing the notion of equal rights for all and protection of minorities.

    Just because the outcome of Proposition 8 was made through popular referendum does NOT mean the decision was democratic or legitimate. It was absolutely not.

    Representative Democracy has its flaws – indeed, but, I’ve grown very untrustworthy of the notion of holding referendums. I think I’ve turned into Charles De Gaulle.

  7. Ralf – indeed. There’s a reason that most successful democracies are representative ones, rather than direct. And it’s not entirely down to the practicalities and expense that multiple referenda imply.

    WG – yep, the recession was a huge factor in the end result, for sure. But for this post I’m not really concerning myself with the whys, because that’s a far more simple question to answer (i.e. the recession scared people, and the extra time to think about the Treaty allowed the misrepresentations of the No camps to be exposed – but not enough time for the No camps to sufficiently rethink the tactics and arguments that served them so well last time and come up with more compelling, factually-accurate ones).

    Colin – sorry, didn’t mean to imply that I’m comparing the Irish referenda with current calls for a UK referendum – more to the calls for a re-run from the no camp back in the 1970s. Interesting hypothetical over a future UK EU referendum, though… No idea what would happen there – all I can say is that, if such a situation occurred, then it’d be entirely up to the UK to decide. And the EU wouldn’t be too happy for the UK to break – it hasn’t got the cash to support yet more weak economies like those of Wales and Scotland.

    Robin – Being, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out over the last few years, opposed to referenda on principle, I’ve not nor ever have advocated any additional votes. In fact I called for the Lisbon Treaty to be scrapped even before the result of the last Irish referendum was finalised.

    Was the Irish no undemocratic for holding back the Treaty’s ratification? Well, yes – just 0.17% of the EU’s population prevented the rest of the EU from moving forward with a treaty that the democratically-elected governments of all 27 member states had approved. Is it undemocratic that the rest of the EU hasn’t had a vote on the Treaty? Well, by definition the lack of a vote means that it’s undemocratic. My position, however, has remained consistent in that I don’t think that the people *should* be voting on international treaties – that’s what we elect governments for.

    M – yep, referenda are dangerous things – as are majorities. It’s very easy to forget (especially when you’re on the winning side) that mature democratic societies are not *just* about who has the largest number of supporters – it’s about checks and balances to ensure that a majority cannot just do what it wants when a minority is opposed. (Which can, of course, lead to stalemates and delays that the majority party can find incredibly frustrating after winning an election, and which can seem decidedly unfair when a majority of the electorate has lent those policies its support – but no one’s ever claimed that modern democracy is a perfect system.)

    Representative democracies, when properly constructed, have such checks and balances built in (which is why, despite – or perhaps because of – the fears of the eurosceptics, the EU has not yet become the superstate they have long claimed it is heading towards).

    Referenda, by their very nature, reduce complex issues down to a simple yes/no, and it’s winner take all. It’s democratic, yes – but in a very basic, immature form that I’d argue is even more imperfect than the standard representative system, with all its flaws.

  8. I suggest that you are collectively discussing largely irrelevant points. Complicated legal texts should not be put to the electorate directly, full stop.

    Step back, as Larry Siedentop has done recently in the FT.

    http://www.europa-web.de/europa/02wwswww/202histo/churchil.htm

    His analysis is spot on, his conclusion impractical. The EU is run on clearly democratic lines in accordance with the ‘Community method’. Under the Lisbon Treaty, this is now back centre-stage as the ‘ordinary legislative procedure’. The challenge is to persuade all involved to get back to basics – they are forced to in any case by the current crisis – and for governments to explain to electorates what they are about.

  9. Oops. Wrong link.

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5764467a-ad28-11de-9caf-00144feabdc0,s01=1.html

    Churchill’s speech is still pretty relevant. Maybe someone should send it to the Three Musketeers in charge of the Conservative Party, or the “schoolboys” as thet are referred to by Miliband.

  10. NM,

    I think Robin’s point was that these referendum re-runs only ever happen when the initial result is “No”. No-one is arguing that the No campaign has not been full of distortions and scaremongering, but this is the stock-in-trade of pro-EU politicians all over the continent and always has been, as you well know. The only differences are that (a) the Yes side normally has vastly more money to spend on the referendum campaign (one of the reasons Ganley was so vilified last time) and (b) the Yes side gets to ask for a second opinion if they don’t manage to persuade the voters first time out.

    It’s disingenuous, therefore, to equate the No camp with the Yes camp by saying that they both believe that “democracy is only democracy when you get the result you want”, because even if that were true, it’s only the Yes side that get the second bite at the cherry. Once the Noes have lost – whether in 1975 here or in 2009 in Ireland – the establishment announce that the matter is closed. Whatever else this may be, it’s not even-handed.

    For the same reason, I think it’s questionable to label this process as “returning periodically to the people to allow them to re-think and to change their minds”, because, once again, this is only ever mooted when the people’s initial response has been “negative”. Very few pro-Europeans ever suggest re-opening the question of the UK’s membership of the EU, for example (I think the Lib Dems did, a while back?), and those who do generally have tactical reasons for advocating it, i.e. to screw the Tories. If I said that we should ask the British people whether they want to remain in the EU “to allow them to re-think and to change their minds”, most commenters here would just laugh.

    As it happens, I tend to agree that referenda are not a great way of scrutinising and debating treaties like Lisbon, but since none of their political parties are willing to do it I’d say it’s only fair people should be allowed to have their say.

  11. Mr Eugenides,

    You seem to make no allowance for the political dynamics or common interests.

    What you reduce to stock in trade pro-EU politicians have ordinarily been the governments and the parliaments of all the member states, not some pro-EU sect.

    It is absurd to require ratification by all member states and referendums are not an ideal form of decision making for technical treties, but the EU member states have sat down together to look at the reasons for refusal and they have then addressed these concerns, as with the Danish opt-outs and the Irish guarantees.

    Responsible politicians are united by a common will to find acceptable solutions. This is an embodiment of what the European project is about.

    I find it hard to believe that you imagine that political parties have done nothing to scrutinise and debate EU treaties. Every treaty has been scrutinised by every politically responsible government, by parliamentary committees and by (often two) houses of parliament in each member state, and they have been approved by majorities, in most cases qualified ones. You have missed that?

  12. Several points.

    Referenda, by their very nature, reduce complex issues down to a simple yes/no, and it’s winner take all. It’s democratic, yes – but in a very basic, immature form that I’d argue is even more imperfect than the standard representative system, with all its flaws.

    Surely this only applies to referenda when they occur at the rate of one per decade or longer? After all, the representative system you’re advocating here comes down to yes or no (or abstain, or stay at home in a referendum). The only reason it’s more mature is that it happens a lot. Most of the MPs who vote on any given bill didn’t have any input at all in drafting the thing. The problem with referenda is that we hardly ever have them; if we could vote every day, but the great god of teh interwebs, this immature phase would end.

    I think it was disingenuous for the EU to insist on a second referendum. I don’t see what turnout has to do with it. The first one was legal and unambiguous. Elections go the wrong way sometimes, that’s democracy. I don’t really accept that Bush won in 2000, but John Kerry did the right thing in accepting that that seemed to be the judgement of the people.

    But really, the paragraph with annoyed me the most was this one:

    That’s 862,415 No voters – 28.3% of the Irish electorate, and just 0.17% of the EU’s population – holding up the ratification of a complex document that was the result of the best part of seven years’ worth of detailed negotiations between the governments of 27 states.

    First, in the last god knows how many UK general elections, only a minority of the electorate voted for the winner. Many people don’t vote; that’s just how it is. I don’t get the relevance of the percentage of the population of the whole of EU here. You’ve just chosen that to make the noes seem even more recalcitrant, although it’s hardly their fault that the under-18s are disenfranchised. And how dare these people decide that they didn’t care for the ‘detailed negotiations between … governments’. Why, it’s almost as if they don’t know that governments always want the best for the stupid little civilians. The real problem being (I’ll use your figure, since it’s there) is that the other 99.83% weren’t asked.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6901353.stm
    Ireland was obliged to hold a referendum because of an Irish Supreme Court ruling in 1987, saying that any major amendment to an EU treaty entails an amendment to the Irish constitution.

    That was the most sensible response to the EU anywhere. Of course a “major amendment to an EU treaty entails an amendment to [your country’s] constitution.” That’s the whole point of the EU. The House of Lords should have insisted on the same for us.

  13. Mr E – Some fair points, especially on asking the people to think again only when the result is “wrong”. However, I think you misunderstand me – I was never in favour of a second referendum. To underline this once more, after the first Irish referendum I advocated scrapping Lisbon altogether – I felt that the result should have been respected (even while feeling that it’s decidedly undemocratic that such a tiny percentage of the EU’s population could scupper the entire thing).

    The point of this post is not that I feel the result to be “right”, but that I find any claims that allowing the people to have their say at the ballot box is “undemocratic” to be absurd. Ireland could easily have voted No again – and would have done, had the No camp come up with any convincing arguments. They didn’t.

    Dave – well, yes. If you have referenda on a regular and frequent basis, they could become more nuanced and subtle. But we don’t in the UK, and Ireland doesn’t either. Largely because to do so would lead to constant disruption and massive expenditure – and because referenda are so easily skewed by false propaganda (as happened in the last Irish Lisbon referendum, though that’s beside the point). There’s a reason – and a very good one – why the vast majority of mature democracies are representative rather than direct. Because representative democracy usually works relatively well.

    You also say that “The real problem… is that the other 99.83% weren’t asked” – as noted in an earlier comment, however, I really don’t think that *is* a problem. It’s not paternalistic to point out that “the people” are simply not qualified to scrutinise and assess the implications of complex legal documents. This is why when you’re buying a house you hire a lawyer to go through the paperwork for you. When it comes to treaties like Lisbon, the lawyers we hire are instead our elected representatives – who are elected, after all, for that very purpose.

    As for the British people having a say in changes to the British constitution – on what basis? In the UK parliament is sovereign (technically the crown in parliament) – the people are not nor ever have been. To introduce referenda on constitutional changes in the UK would itself be just about the biggest constitutional change the country will have undergone in almost a century – far bigger and more significant than anything the EU’s ever introduced.

  14. Some long and rambling thoughts ahead. Apologies for grammatical/spelling errors. :)

    The problem with referenda is that we hardly ever have them; if we could vote every day, but the great god of teh interwebs, this immature phase would end.

    Actually, I have to disagree entirely with that statement. M makes the point rather well that referenda quite often result in some pretty terrible consequences for the polity involved. The frequency of referenda alone doesn’t change this; if anything, I find that the results are far more malignant over time and ‘experience’ with the format.

    California, my home state, is a great test case here. Referenda are held in California at every election, general or not, which has sometimes meant having referenda on back-to-back years. They quite literally run the gamut, from budgetary rules and restrictions to public works projects, to constitutional amendments on gay marriage, to tax policy, to crime and security, etc.

    What is the result of 30 years of referenda? A ballooning state debt, as each referenda tacks on new pet projects that sound good on paper. A hopelessly regressive tax system, where property taxes are frozen the date of purchase, thereby contributing to a chronic shortage of state funds. We’ve had multiple referenda on the SAME issue: in fact, pro-gay marriage folks are working hard to get the issue back on the ballot for the 2010 elections, only 2 years after gay marriage was stricken from the state constitution. We’ve had gerrymandered districts protected by referenda, thereby contributing to the political gridlock in the state capital. We have a so-called three strikes law (which some British pols are eager to adopt, whatever its failures, cos anything coming from America must be a good idea) which has contributed to the severe overcrowding of prisons, such that human rights organisations are rightly criticising them as inhumane. That same three strikes law routinely throws away prisoners for 25 years or more, however petty a third crime might have been. And you’ve had a state education budget starved of funds–the result of fickle votes pulling politicians in opposite directions, from supporting capital-intensive school building projects whilst starving educational jobs of decent wages, in the vain hope of controlling the budget.

    And what is the end result? A state education ranked 47th out of 50 states–a complete reversal of where California’s education system used to stand 20 or so years ago. A fiscal crisis rivalling those of Ireland and Iceland, because it does not have access to sovereign debt markets. The second-highest state unemployment rate in the country, coupled with some of the highest urban poverty rates anywhere. A collapsed housing market that has exacerbated long-term problems with tax returns. Gridlocked state politics, falling competitiveness, and yes, the opposite of constitutional clarity and a fickle regard for the human rights of Californians. In sum, the state is in an absolute dire state–and a constant stream of referenda have played a huge roll in its debacle.

    California demonstrates all too well why referenda simply don’t work: not on the big-picture issues like constitutional affairs and tax systems, even less on spending initiatives and priorities.

    And how can it not be thus? No matter how hard you try to educate a population they will have neither the time nor the inclination to cut through the blizzard of initiatives and their attendant arguments to make a reasoned choice; even less will they have the discipline to see what the knock-on effects might be, again, DESPITE the fact that the state government tries its best to provide impact assessments (including fiscal ones) on each ballot initiative. Still the people vote in a rather lazy fashion. It’s why representative politics works much better–even if it doesn’t always seem like it–because it is their JOB to pay attention and consider those arguments…even when some do not. And discipline, especially in a parliamentary system, goes hand in hand with the profession.

    Now try superimposing a system which rarely works at a state level (even a local level–the County and City of LA, my hometown, also have referenda, with equally disastrous results) onto a supranational organisation which, by its nature, is based on considered cooperation and consensus. It’s madness.

  15. Ralf:

    “It is absurd to require ratification by all member states”.

    You what? It’s absurd to require national legislatures to agree to constitutional changes?

    Really?

  16. Mr Eugenides,

    The Constitution of the USA was content to require nine ratifications.

    The multiple unanimity rules of the European Union make it about as stable as a house of cards.

    Why not advance to a real fundamental law (based on EU citizens) which can be amended by majority qualified decision. Before that a treaty entering into force between the ratifying states would enable states to advance without being held hostage by one or a few.

  17. Of course a “major amendment to an EU treaty entails an amendment to [your country’s] constitution.” That’s the whole point of the EU. The House of Lords should have insisted on the same for us.

    I forgot to tackle this one. The House of Lords (and, now, the Supreme Court) have not been (self-)empowered to tackle constitutional issues of this nature. In the British constitutional system the highest court of the land goes to great lengths to consider the intent of parliament in passing certain bills. Of course, this often takes more of a theoretical/artifical bent, but that’s neither here nor there for these purposes.

    There is no bill anywhere in the United Kingdom that makes referenda part of the constitutional structures of the UK–and good riddance, for the reasons I laid out above. More importantly, the whole idea of referenda goes against the grain of UK constitutional thinking since the Glorious Revolution–that is, in displacing the centrality of parliament in constitutional tinkering. It’s why the EU isn’t much of a problem in the English legal system: since the supreme parliament can in one fell swoop undo the validity of EU legislation, and since that self-same parliament brought the EU into the domestic legislative process through statute, the constitutional nature of parliament is preserved. It’s why courts readily interpret EU and ECHR cases and legislation–they are doing what parliament has explicitly and implicitly allowed them to do. For courts to INSIST on referenda on constitutional matters, on the other hand, short of a parliamentary statute saying so, would be a usurpation of court power with no statutory precedent.

    You might think that is a good thing in principle–for UK courts to be able in effect to overrule parliament–but that isn’t where we’re at here in Britain just yet.

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  19. Clive,

    and because referenda are so easily skewed by false propaganda (as happened in the last Irish Lisbon referendum, though that’s beside the point).

    I really don’t think it is beside the point. I can’t find any other interpretation for ‘easily skewed by false propaganda’ than ‘may produce a result I don’t like.’ General elections are equally vulnerable: it’s less obvious because of the number of ‘diehards’ for each party. Some people will vote for their party whatever they promise. Both parties lie like PR people. (Ah, Cameron is one; of course.) The results don’t slosh as dramatically as they do in referenda because of the inertia of the electorate. That’s not really a good state of affairs either.

    It’s not paternalistic to point out that “the people” are simply not qualified to scrutinise and assess the implications of complex legal documents.

    Yes it is. Neither are most MPs, and they don’t. They do what the whips tell them. But the problem is with the complex legal documents. In the US, children are taught the Constitution: it was written by lawyers, but lawyers who happened to be broad enough to write lucid English. The Lisbon Treaty is opaque for exactly the reason you say: to keep the plebs off. And what do you think we vote for when we vote for political parties? Their nice smiles? Their choice of suits? Ooh, he seems like a nice boy, I’ll trust him with a few trillions of debt and I’m sure he’ll take us to war with the right countries? Voters are supposed to pick parties which represent their views on complex issues. At some point, the voters have to make their minds up on these things.

    I actually incline to Europhilia, it’s just that the smell of elitism which comes off the avowed Europhiles repels me even more than the jingoism of the sceptics.

    Rene, you make some powerful points about referenda in California. You haven’t wholly swung me, I’m afraid. Calif pols seem even stupider than the ones we have here. Referenda don’t dump all the decision making onto the electorate. After all, they only choose between two options. Take the regressive property taxation, because that’s at least an issue I sort of understand. The choices offered simply seem to be very poor. That’s not a referendum problem per se: that’s a problem which exists in representative democracies too. I mean the US has elected representatives who include Eric Cantor, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin. I really don’t see how flipping a coin or deciding legislation on whether or not a groundhog surfaces or can be worse than letting those three vote on anything. And we have Gordon Brown as PM, not voted for by anyone. We need more democracy, not less.

  20. NM: I had the total voter turnout during the last vote at 1,614,866 (according to the Times). Statistics Office Estimate 2009 population of Ireland currently at 4,459,300, and April last year at 4,422,100. .: total turnout in ’08 was +/-37%. 862,415/4,422,100 (April 08)= 19.5 of Irish population (though only 2.8 – 3.05 million were on the electoral register last year, thus 53-58%turnout). 58% turnout in 09 would be 2,586,394 (out of 4,459,300). Thus 1,732,884 yes votes, and 853,510 no votes. This would of course ignore the fact that around 25% of the Irish population is not on the electoral register. I can’t find that figure so ((2.8 or 3.05)/4422100)x100= (63.3 or 68.9)
    (4459300/100) x (63.3 or 68.9) = 2.82m or 3.07m.
    On the basis of the statistics we have, that would mean:
    a) 1,635,600 voters, 1,095,852 yes votes, 539,748 no votes.
    b) 1,780,600 voters, 1,193,002 yes votes, 587598 no votes.

    addendum for conspiracy theorists: errors (or actions by evil European spies) lost 500,000 voters from the Irish electoral register. If all of these 500,000 were no voters….

  21. I dont buy this If The People Have A Referendum They Will Be Voting Out Of Stupidity or that we have elected the best and brightest and least dishonest to represent us in Parliament and in negotiating treaties.

    Nosemonkey you say the No side used underhand tactics. The No side say the Yes side used underhand tactics .

    The EU here seems like Arthur Scargill in 1983, using devious ruses to avoid a ballot about the miners strike. Thus it was never seen as the “right” side, and ultimately caused its own demise.

  22. NM: I had the total voter turnout during the last vote at 1,614,866 (according to the Times). Statistics Office Estimate 2009 population of Ireland currently at 4,459,300, and April last year at 4,422,100. .: total turnout in ‘08 was +/-37%. 862,415/4,422,100 (April 08)= 19.5 of Irish population (though only 2.8 – 3.05 million were on the electoral register last year, thus 53-58%turnout). 58% turnout in 09 would be 2,586,394 (out of 4,459,300). Thus 1,732,884 yes votes, and 853,510 no votes. This would of course ignore the fact that around 25% of the Irish population is not on the electoral register.

    The 25% not on the electoral register are almost all either non-citizens (the franchise for referenda being confined to Irish citizens only) or under 18, or both.

    The electorate on both occasions was about 3 million. (3,051,278 last year, 3,078,132 this year).

  23. Thanks Paddy, always useful to know. That would still leave around 1,780,600 voters, 1,193,002 yes votes, 587598 no votes. Cheers!