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Bono Betrays Ireland

by Andrew Cockburn

The people of Ireland, currently suffering under the deluges of a terrible summer, are being further depressed by an avalanche of mendacious propaganda urging them to vote “Yes” in a referendum on the Treaty of Nice to be held this October. A torrent of homilies from agents of Big Capital, including the major parties, the German Chancellor, the Economist, and, predictably and nauseatingly, Jesse Helms best friend: U2 warbler Bono.

Most people assume that this treaty, negotiated by the member governments of the European Union in 2000, simply providers for the admission of new member to the EU — up to 13 — from Eastern Europe. Propagandists for the new order like to stress that this enlargement is what Nice is all about. It is not. Nice is essentially about a sinister overhaul of the system by which the people of the EU are governed. The most important provisions of the agreement changed the system for governing the Union, which currently gives small and big countries a roughly equal voice, to one in which the big countries — particularly France, Germany, Italy and Britain — have the decisive say

EU procedures require that the treaty be ratified by all member states before it can come into force. For most European regimes, this posed no problem, the document being duly rubber stamped by pliant Parliaments. The Irish, however, have an irritating constitutional stipulation requiring that changes in the way the country is governed be submitted directly to the people for ratification in a referendum. In June last year the people duly tramped to the polls and resoundingly rejected the treaty, 54% to 46%.

Bellows of dismay rang through the chanceries of Europe. Gerhardt Schroeder came to Dublin and pronounced that the Irish people would have to vote again until they came up with the right answer. The Washington Post wagged an admonitory editorial finger, repeating the conventional official wisdom that the Irish had exhibited disgraceful selfishness in basing their rejection on a desire to stop Poles, Czechs, Rumanians and other prospective members from gaining access to the payouts from Brussels hitherto enjoyed by the Irish.

As might be expected, this analysis was wholly false. Basically, the Irish rejected the treaty not because they wanted to keep Polish farmers and other East Europeans away from the trough, but because, like most European citizens, they are increasingly outraged at the attrition of European democracy in favor of rule by unelected officials in Brussels issuing edicts on everything from tax policy to the composition of Ireland’s incomparably superior pork sausages. They noted that, under Nice, Ireland would lose its automatic right to select one of the powerful European commissioners and would have its representation on the Council of Ministers severely diluted. Nor were they happy at the creation, under Nice, of a 60,000 man Rapid Reaction Force under EU command and slated for intervention abroad. Encouraged by a skillful No campaign spearheaded by the Green Party and Sinn Fein, the voters delivered their wise verdict.

That should have been the end of it. The people had spoken But the Irish ruling clique, notoriously corrupt, bowed the head and bent the knee in humble obedience to orders from their betters. Disgracefully, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern apologized to his fellow European leaders for the indiscipline of his voters and announced that Schroeder’s admonition would be followed: Ireland would vote again.

Little is being left to chance. Last time, an over confident government allowed state funds to be used for the presentation of arguments on both sides. That will not happen again. P.J. Mara, Dublin’s pre-eminent political fixer, has been enlisted to run the yes campaign. The President, Mary McAleese, has unconstitutionally intervened in a political debate by indicating her preference for a yes decision. There has thus been much for the people to bear, and then….Bono.

With a typical blend of arrogance and ignorance, the butcher shrike of the Liffey went on Irish radio and declared that the Irish people had voted the way they did because they were not properly informed on the issues. Ever eager to brag about his access to the corridors of power, he declared that “I go to meetings with politicians in Europe, they always bring it up…..I think to vote No is going to make Ireland look very selfish.” He concluded by echoing the official lie that the issue had been only about the enlargement of the EU.

Thus Bono reiterated the dogma, endlessly pounded into Irish heads, that they have been the welfare queens of Europe, fattened on handouts from Brussels, giving little in return and now racing to deny the same largesse to the suffering masses of Ljubliana and Cracow.

This is absolutely not the case. To cite just one example, arduous investigation by Irish marine biologist and entrepreneur John King lays bare the figures on the pillaging of a vital resource. Over the thirty years since Ireland joined Europe, the Irish have received some twenty billion pounds (the currency that was replaced by the Euro at the beginning of this year) from Brussels. Not a small chunk of change. However, in joining, Ireland agreed to give up territorial control of its immensely rich fishing grounds, leaving them open to plunder by other European fishing fleets. In consequence, those fleets, especially the Spaniards, have extracted an average of 14 billion pounds worth of fish every year since 1972. This state of affairs is indeed coming to an end, as Irish waters are now swept clear, with barely a fish left to nurture what was once the Irish fishing industry.

The only ray of hope in this sorry tale is that, despite the barrage of persiflage, polls indicate that the Irish voter will once again stand up for democracy, once more sending Ahern and Bono scurrying off to make what excuses they can to their overseers.

 

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Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.  An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years.  In addition to publishing numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis American Casino.  His latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (Henry Holt).

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