Sunday, June 15, 2008

Libertas political coup derails Lisbon Treaty

I think we’ve just witnessed a bloodless political coup, masterminded by the hitherto (politically) unknown Libertas organisation.

That coup successfully overthrew the aspiration of the democratically elected Government and both main opposition parties to pass the Lisbon Treaty. By doing so, it also set off a domino political crisis in 26 other democratic states which comprise the EU and many of which have already ratified the treaty through their parliaments.

A question which inevitably arises is whether Libertas is a genuinely Irish-born organisation or a front for some external party or government with an interest in derailing the EU project. Libertas was founded by businessman/oligarch Declan Ganley, but the political objectives and funding of that organisation are unknown at this point in time.

You have to ask who would be interested in scuppering the EU? Presumably parties intent on preventing the EU developing greater economic, political, diplomatic and, perhaps, military power on the world stage. The USA and Russia spring to mind.

Libertas founder Declan Ganley has strong connections in both countries. His company, Rivada Networks, provides telecommunications facilities to US-government agencies e.g. the national guard, police services, FEMA etc., while his early business career was built around the export of metals, particularly aluminium, from Russia.

It would have been easy to identify Ireland, the only country holding a referendum, as the weakest link in the Lisbon Treaty ratification chain. Is that what happened?

Another possible objective of the coup is the personal political ambition of Declan Ganley and the use of the Lisbon Treaty as a launch pad for his political career.

Ganley was the guest on Eamon Dunphy’s RTE programme yesterday where he revealed that, at the time Latvia declared independence from the USSR in August 1991, he was very friendly with members of the Latvian Popular Front, many of whom ended up in the first Latvian Government. His connections there arose from the fact that his company exported it’s Russian metals through Riga, the capital of Latvia.

Ganley expressed great admiration and enthusiasm for these Latvian patriots. When asked where these people were on the politcial spectrum, Ganley agreed that they were broadly conservative, with nationalists and some socialists in the mix. Much of Ganley's own rhetoric smacks of nationalism, patriotism, pride in irishness etc etc..

One suspects he's probably some brand of neo-liberal nationalist, but the fear is that Libertas might just stray into neo-fascism, given the political colour of some of its anti-Lisbon political bed-fellows. Not exactly a collection of dyed-in-the-wool democrats.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mansergh defends 2003 Decentralisation "Plan"

Monday’s Irish Times “Head to Head” debate on the 2003 Decentralisation Plan , between Minister for State Martin Mansergh and AHCPS Dep.Gen.Sec. John Kelleher, provides some interesting insights into Government thinking in this area and its broader understanding of its own Spatial Strategy.

Defending the plan, Martin Mansergh paints an idyllic picture of civil servants decentralised to Tipperary town, informing us that they “are very happy to be within 15 minutes or less commuting distance from home”. The agency in question is the Immigration & Naturalisation Section of the Department of Justice. Minister Mansergh makes no reference to the commuting convenience, or otherwise, of the customers of this agency, whenever this might prove necessary. Customer convenience is clearly not a relevant consideration in Government thinking.
This lack of consideration for customers is confirmed by John Kelleher in his contribution on the topic, in which he illustrates a number of other examples of illogical relocations e.g. the Irish Prison Service to Longford, the Development Aid section of Foreign Affairs to Limerick, the Public Appointments Service to Youghal and the Equality Tribunal to Portarlington.

Minister Mansergh defends the lack of fit between the 2003 Decentralisation “Plan” and the 2002 National Spatial Strategy, explaining that “practically all the hubs and gateways already have civil service buildings, under previous decentralisation programmes.”
Yet a key objective of the 2002 National Spatial Strategy was to concentrate future development in a finite number of identified locations, the gateways and hubs, in order to achieve sufficient scale in those locations to support economic delivery of services and infrastructural investment.
Instead, the 2003 Decentralisation Plan proposes to scatter 10,300 civil servants to 53 locations, most of which are neither gateway nor hub, and Minister Mansergh is clearly happy to defend this “one for everyone in the audience” approach.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has identified reform of the public service and extraction of better value for money as a key political priority. The thinking demonstrated in Minister Mansergh’s contribution, allied to several additional drawbacks outlined by John Kelleher, wouldn’t inspire any great confidence in a happy outcome for either public servants or taxpayers.

Footnote: Published as a letter in The Irish Times.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Is Lisbon Treaty 98% of the EU Constitution?

Former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has claimed that the Lisbon Treaty is 98% identical to his failed EU Constitution.

“The EU Constitution has now been repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty.”

“The EU Constitution has not been repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty.”

Both the above sentences are more 98% identical, but their meanings are quite different.

Could that be what he means?

What's clear is that any major document could be modified by the inclusion or exclusion of key sentences, phrases or single words and its meaning can be substantially changed. So the "98%" claim can be essentially meaningless.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Sinn Féin & the Lisbon Treaty

What is the logic behind Sinn Fein’s opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, apart from that party’s normal ultra-nationalist anti-EU stance, which reflects its automatic denial of anything that may even appear to impinge on our sovereignty, as they choose to define it at any point in time?

Defence of our 12.5% Corporate Tax rate.
Didn’t Sinn Fein campaign for an increase in that rate as recently as the 2007 General Election? Are we now expected to be believe, 12 months later, that this Corporate Tax rate has become a core value for Sinn Fein? Who are they trying to fool? So the only question is this: are they just cynically scare-mongering or are they also trying to attract support and political donations from the business sector? Will Libertas leading lights feature on future lists of party donors?

Neutrality and Demilitarisation
The argument about the treaty requiring member countries to upgrade their armed forces would be better made by parties other than Sinn Fein. That party clearly had, in the past, a vested interest in keeping the security forces of this state in the weakest possible position. Doubtless there may well be some among their leadership/active membership who would wish to maintain that situation in the, hopefully unlikely, event of a return to “war”.
Sinn Fein’s concern for Irish neutrality and their desire to ensure that the Irish Army does not become involved in any EU adventures abroad is, in light of their own history, utterly lacking credibility. To be lectured thus by former terrorists is, frankly, FARCical.

Renegotiation of the Lisbon Treaty
Brian Cowen rightly made the point that this is far from the easy option so simplistically pushed by Sinn Fein and their fellow-travellers on the NO side.
As Cowen pointed out, if he goes back to Brussels with the list of problem areas being promoted by the NO campaigners, the other national leaders will be left scratching their heads while they say “but your tax position is protected by Lisbon, as is neutrality, abortion is unchanged, privatisation of public services remains a domestic policy decision etc etc etc”.
And let’s examine briefly the record of “ace negotiators” Sinn Fein: after 30+ years of mayhem and murder, for which that party must bear the greatest share of the blame.
What did they actually achieve?
(i) The territorial claim to Northern Ireland has been deleted from the Irish Constitution.
(ii) The constitutional position of NI as part of the United Kingdom is recognised by all parties, including the Irish Govt and Sinn Fein.
(iii) Ian Paisley (and now Peter Robinson, Baron Clontibret) becomes Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
You couldn’t make it up! And these are the boyos who talk about renegotiating Lisbon? You wouldn’t send them out to buy a pint of milk.
Does anyone believe that the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement could have achieved LESS if left to pursue their peaceful approach for a decade? How prosperous would NI be now if they’d had 30 years of peace instead of Sinn Fein “negotiation”?

Beware the Paramilitary-Industrial Complex!

In 1961, retiring President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American public about the potential risk to democracy of the growing influence of the emerging powerful Military-Industrial Complex.

What similar warning should now be promulgated about the emerging Paramilitary-Industrial Complex advocating a "No" vote in the Lisbon Treaty Referendum?

I refer, of course, to that unholy alliance between Sinn Fein & Libertas.