We have no connection with the Conservative Party or with
Mr Hannan, but he has interesting things to say about Éire's Nice II referendum
on October 19th 2002.
Conservative Euro Briefing
An occasional electronic update from Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP for South
If you are in any doubt about the anti-democratic nature of the European
project, look at the means by which it advances itself. In order to push ahead
with Nice, the Irish Government disregarded last year's clear referendum result,
changed the rules and changed the question.
Saturday's vote was predictable - and, indeed, predicted, by me among others. It became more or less inevitable once Bertie Ahern had amended the law on the
conduct of plebiscites.
Until now, Ireland has had admirably fair rules on referendum campaigns,
providing for equal air time on the state media and for the distribution to each
household of a pamphlet setting out the case for each side. This did not mean,
of course, that there was total equality: pro-EU campaigners were always able to
outspend their rivals overall. But it did at least ensure that every voter got
to hear both sides of the argument.
Just before the Dáil rose for its Christmas recess, however, the Government
scrapped this rule. The way was thus clear for the "Yes" side to exploit its
massive financial advantage.
Of course, a side-effect of the change is that Ireland will no longer have fair
referendum campaigns on any subject. In order to ratify an essentially
undemocratic treaty, Ireland has had to debase its own democratic procedures.
Not content with rigging the rules, Mr Ahern also rigged the question. Voters
were asked to ratify Nice and, in the same vote, to oppose Irish participation
in the EU army. Thus, many supporters of neutrality - a natural anti-Nice
constituency - felt obliged to vote "Yes". To see how outrageous this is,
imagine that, in a British referendum, Tony Blair phrased the question: "Do you
want to join the single European currency and preserve the supremacy of the UK
Last year, David felled Goliath. This time, though, the old Philistine had sent
back to Gath for reinforcements. All the main parties swung behind a "yes "
vote, with only the Greens and Sinn Féin against. Business groups, trade unions
and farming organisations joined them. Every big gun from Lech Walesa to St
John Hume was wheeled out.
Ireland, they all argued, has done well out of Brussels; now let's give Eastern
Europe the same opportunity. It is something of a surprise, then, to read the
Nice Treaty and find that enlargement is barely mentioned: it comes in a codicil
tacked on at the end, and could easily have been agreed without a referendum.
Nice is about deepening rather than widening the EU. It provides, among other
things, for the scrapping of 39 national vetoes, the harmonisation of justice
and home affairs and the establishment of pan-European political parties. The
Euro-elites were never going to allow mere public opinion to stop all this. Once again, they have got their way.