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Nice II – Euro-bullies buy Éire referendum
In June 2001, the Irish electorate struck a magnificent blow for freedom by voting against the implementation of the flawed Treaty of Nice. None of the other EU member states bothered to put it to a popular vote. Éire had to because the 1937 Constitution requires it.
The shockwaves were heard all over Europe. Overnight, Éire became the bad boy of the EU. Ahern and Cowen apologised to their fellow members of the Euro-elite and promised to sort matters out. Democracy was so inconvenient!
Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald argued that ‘nothing could be more democratic than to offer them a further opportunity to consider again’ this issue. According to Mr Fitzgerald, ‘Those opposed to a further referendum are simply seeking to impose their view upon the electorate as a whole.’ [Irish Times, 5/1/02]. In other words, the Irish political elite would not take no for an answer - hence the rerun of the referendum on October 19th 2002!
Before this took place, though, it was necessary to load the dice in their favour. The first thing was to nobble the Referendum Commission so that both sides of a question would no longer be heard equally. This allowed the Dublin government to spend taxpayers’ money to finance its own point of view, while the impoverished no campaigners had to struggle to raise their own funds.
Just take a look at the funds available to the campaigners for each side of the debate. It makes interesting reading. The Yes Campaigners spent 6¼ times the amount of money available to the No Campaigners.
Figures from Irish Independent 12/10/2002
In addition, the No campaigners had to compete with all the major political parties in Leinster House, big business and the Trade Union bureaucrats, the Catholic hierarchy, the farmers’ union leadership and all the national newspapers and broadcasters. The pro-Nice side may have taken things for granted in June 2001, but this time it was war and no quarter would be given!
The liberal-leftist pro-Nice media decided it would have to divert the public’s attention away from the issues by scaring the voters into voting Yes to distance themselves from some of the ‘unsavoury characters’ on the No side of the argument. The obvious bogeyman here is Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin, but he is needed for other projects in Ulster, so he had to be untouchable. In Dublin you don’t mention the war!
Instead, the media decided to target Justin Barrett, the energetic and effective spokesman for the No to Nice Campaign. Although I have never met Mr Barrett, I found myself caught up in the media scrum to discredit him because Ulster Nation reviewed his book, The National Way Forward in issue 30 – well over a year ago. This seems to have been the book’s only review. I had calls from the Sunday Times, RTÉ radio, and a woman called ‘Helen’ who claimed to be a student majoring in European political nationalism, although she was in fact a reporter for the Sunday Tribune. All were interested in Mr Barrett’s book and my impressions of it. It became obvious that they were digging for dirt on the man.
They wanted to know what the connection was between Mr Barrett and Ulster Nation. There’s none. Why did he send us a copy of his book? He didn’t. An occasional contributor to these columns submitted the review. Could they borrow my copy of the book? No – I haven’t got a copy, although I have read it.
A week before the vote, the Irish Times published a shock horror exposé that Mr Barrett had addressed a meeting of the populist National Democratic Party of Germany some two years ago. The tone of the article suggested that this was some kind of latter-day Nuremberg Rally complete with brown-shirted stormtroopers. A picture taken from a video recording of the rally was captioned as showing a brown-shirted colour party. In fact, only one person in the picture wore a brown shirt. Others wore white, casual T-shirts and, in the case of one young girl, a garment that looked like a school pinafore. The story was a mountain made out of a molehill, but the damage was done.
The Yes Campaign seized on the story like manna from heaven. ‘See the type of evil, xenophobic, racist, nazi stuff that these anti-Nice people get up to. That’s their real hidden message’ was the gist of their claims. Dick Roche from Fianna Fail was beside himself with joy and mock outrage. The media and the ‘great and the good’ from the Yes campaign all over fell over themselves to condemn Mr Barrett and to smear the entire No campaign by association. It was nasty. It was dirty – but it worked!
By Sunday, October 13th newspaper headlines had fresh ‘revelations’ about Mr Barrett. According to Ireland on Sunday, he had ‘shared [a] platform with terrorists’. Sure enough, he had been on RTÉ television the previous week sitting alongside Gerry Adams from Sinn Féin as had Gay Mitchell from Fine Gael. But no, Gerry Adams is a ‘good’ liberal-leftist terrorist, so that doesn’t count. Mr Barrett had apparently shared a ‘fascist’ platform in Italy with a man who had been accused of a bomb atrocity in Bologna some 15 years or so ago, but who now seems to be free to walk about Italy without the police feeling his collar. It suggests to me that perhaps the accusation against him was false – or has Italy also got its own version of the Good Friday Agreement to allow convicted terrorists to get out of prison early? It’s a bit of a non-story, but sure any mud thrown now will probably stick.
But that’s not all! According to the same article by Valerie Hanley and John Mooney, "Barrett has forged links with the Northern Ireland branch of the British National Party – Ulsternation [sic]. His book, The National Way Forward is featured on Ulsternations’s website.
"Members are mostly from the working-class areas of north and eat Belfast and some have flirted with loyalist paramilitary groups."
Ireland on Sunday used to be a good newspaper, but if this extract were typical of the standard of its journalism, readers would be better off relying on the Sunday Sport. No IoS reporters approached me for comment, but why let the facts get in the way of a good, juicy story?
For the record, Ulster Nation is not an organisation. It is an Ulster-nationalist magazine that gives editorial support to Ulster Third Way – a registered political party that contests elections on an Ulster-nationalist platform. We are not the ‘Northern Ireland branch’ of the British National Party. We never have been and never will be. Any honest journalist could see this in a few minutes from checking out our website, but this was not honest journalism – this has all the hallmarks of a politically motivated smear. The casual Éire reader will now think of Mr Barrett as an associate of Italian terrorists and 'BNP' types in the Black North who 'flirt' with loyalist paramilitary groups. As intended, some of the mud has stuck with the electorate.
As mentioned above, the sole fact upon which Mr Barrett is said to have ‘forged links’ with Ulster Nation was the appearance in our columns of a favourable book review. By this reckoning the well-known Derry Trotskyist, Eamonn McCann, has also ‘forged links’ with us as we carry a favourable review of his book too. The plain truth is that no such links exist.
The vote has now been taken and counted in the Nice Referendum II. The Yes Campaign finally has the result it paid for. In time, Mr Barrett will have the bitter consolation of having been proved right in the long run. Those of us who campaigned for a No vote in the 1998 referendum on the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ can truly identify with him. We too have been proved right in our political analysis of that flawed Agreement, but nobody wants to hear ‘I told you so’.
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