The inconvenience of democracy

Well, that’s us told. No less august an organ than the Grauniad saw fit, in its leader on the Lisbon referendum, to describe the Irish electorate as “a horde of Goths”. Saturday’s paper also contained opinion pieces from Fintan O’Toole and Colm Tóibín, of which there’s little to be said except to refer the reader to Des Fennell’s old book, Nice People and Rednecks. God knows why, but our elite seem to be perpetually surprised that there are more rednecks about than nice people.

We’ve also seen various European politicos holding forth, most notably Denis MacShane and Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Of this pair it can fairly be asked, could you possibly find a bigger pair of wankers to fight the EU’s corner? More seriously, their general point was that it’s unfair for 1% of the Union’s population to hold the other 99% hostage. Perhaps it’s escaped the attention of our progressive internationalists that the other 99% weren’t allowed a vote. It’s an odd situation where that tough old conservative, Czech president Václav Klaus, emerges as the champion of democracy. But perhaps it makes my point about liberal elitism.

But this really takes the biscuit. For those of you who aren’t regular readers of the Irish News, Tom Kelly is the paper’s premier purveyor of Humespeak. And there’s nothing more elitist than Humespeak. St John himself used to say that, as the unionists wouldn’t reform, the only thing for it was to appoint plenipotentiary commissioners to force them to behave. You got rather a lot of this during the peace process. Mark Durkan used to attack British direct rule ministers on the grounds that they had no democratic mandate in the North, which was true, and then bathetically go on to demand a government of technocrats and experts who had no mandate anywhere.

So, what of Kelly? Well, he has a theory and a solution regarding the No. His theory is that the Irish punters are so happy with the EU that they can’t be bothered getting off their arse to vote for the Lisbon Treaty. His solution is to rip up the Constitution. Not the EU Constitution, mind, but the Irish Constitution, with its pesky provision that the great unwashed get to have a say on matters as important as EU treaties. Here’s Kelly:

The reality is instead of just licking their wounds the government needs to address the root problem which is a constitution that is, in part, no longer fit for purpose.

This continued requirement for referendums is an anachronism, especially if voting is not made compulsory.

In a state the size of the Republic where voting is not mandatory but referendums are required on complex issues, manipulation by lobby groups from the extreme right and left can swing the vote.

Of course there are those who claim this would be a dissolution of our civil liberties but yet the Yes campaign supporters represent numbers way in excess of those who bothered to vote Yes or No in this recent campaign.

So, the proposition might have been lost, but according to the seasonally adjusted figures, Lisbon really had a majority. Shyeah. Actually, the whole column is replete with gems like this. He also holds forth on the usual characterisation of the Noes as a bunch of cranks:

Sinn Fein will benefit little from their efforts but at least they had the sense to keep the northern leadership away from this campaign. The rest of the rag-tag bunch of No campaigners would make great candidates for an Irish version of Big Brother.

And we have this jaw-dropping non sequitur:

For the government it is humiliating but for Fine Gael and Labour their pro-European credentials are severely tarnished.

For the left, Europe is always problematic as many members of the Labour movement are unenthusiastic about the European ideal – unless of course it is dominated by a hammer and sickle.

Proof if proof was needed that John Hume’s very sound European credentials were not via the imprimatur of the great socialist bloc in the EU.

Huh? Is Kelly trying to stake out a position as the SDLP’s answer to Jim Gibney? Apart from Kelly’s apparent delusion that Fine Gael is some sort of neo-Bolshevik party, wouldn’t it be terrible if Mark Durkan’s mates in the Party of European Socialists came across this sort of flapdoodle? Next time Mark goes to a grand international conference, people like Denis MacShane might be looking at him funny.

Yes, as so often where the EU is concerned, Brecht was ahead of the game with his quip about the government abolishing the people and electing a new one.


  1. ejh said,

    June 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    But what’s that got to do with Robert Carlyle?

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    June 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Ah, I see it now. The photo is in fact of Brecht, obviously in his Begbie phase.

  3. ejh said,

    June 18, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Actually I should have said the young Robert Carlyle. These days, by the looks of him, Carlyle himself is in his Begbie phase.

  4. Briz Blogger said,

    June 19, 2008 at 7:25 am

    And why Goths? New Romantics, surely?

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