Saturday, August 02, 2008

Brian Cowen - the Lisbon impasse!

Stephen Collins has shocked some Irish Times readers with his recent proposal that the Dail, rather than the electorate, should now ratify the Lisbon Treaty.

However, the likelihood of Brian Cowen taking the political risk involved seems even less than the likelihood of him actually getting a second referendum successfully past the post.

Finding our way out of the Lisbon impasse seems as far away as ever, particularly now that Mr Cowen has managed to further damage the cross-party political consensus in favour of the treaty.

Having been very late out of the traps, due to the distraction of Bertie Ahern’s extended lap of honour, followed by his own coronation and victory lap, Mr Cowen still felt it appropriate to give a very public slap in the face to Fine Gael, his largest political pro-Lisbon ally. That party’s natural resentment can be viewed in a new light, as analysis of the advertising spend on the campaign shows that Fianna Fail invested only a small fraction of the amount spent by Fine Gael.

Then the Taoiseach sought to exlcude the leaders of the two main pro-Lisbon opposition parties in the meetings with President Sarkozy, on his recent visit, thus relegating them to the same status as the unelected faction leaders on the NO side, who were each invited to make a three minute presentation at the French embassy. Only the public refusal of Messrs Kenny & Gilmore to accept this sidelining caused a last minute change of heart and averted a highly embarrassing diplomatic gaffe.

So when President Sarkozy came to call, he didn’t have to travel far to find the main reason for the failure of the referendum and the main obstacle to a successful re-run; it greeted him on the steps of Government Buildings.

Unless Brian Cowen demonstrates an ability to build rather than destroy political consensus, there’s no possibility of the Lisbon Treaty being ratified in Ireland.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Times but, sadly, they chose to edit out the Sarkozy bits (in italics) which I thought represented the most recent and relevant Lisbon concensus cock-up by Cowen.

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