June 15, 2008

Lisbon defeat highlights need for fresh thinking

Posted in Ireland · 45 comments ·
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The people who lost the referendum are the same people who have to steer Ireland through the economic downturn. Will they make a mess of that too?

The Lisbon Treaty campaign was characterised by a deep political void between the establishment and the people.

The establishment behaved as if there were no change to the economic background noise. When they couldn’t ignore falling house prices, rising unemployment and collapsing retail sales, they duplicitously tried to blame the No side.

Worse still, they spoke of a great European future without the slightest inclination to listen to the people or as certain why the people – who know the wheels are coming off – might be worried.

Lisbon defeat highlights need for fresh thinking
15 June 2008 By David McWilliams
The people who lost the referendum are the same people who have to steer Ireland through the economic downturn. Will they make a mess of that too?

The Lisbon Treaty campaign was characterised by a deep political void between the establishment and the people.

The establishment behaved as if there were no change to the economic background noise. When they couldn’t ignore falling house prices, rising unemployment and collapsing retail sales, they duplicitously tried to blame the No side.

Worse still, they spoke of a great European future without the slightest inclination to listen to the people or as certain why the people – who know the wheels are coming off – might be worried.

This spectacle was a Marie Antoinette moment and can be seen as a tipping point when the Irish electorate appreciates that all is not well, wants to express this, all the while understanding that merely voting on an issue cannot solve everything.

In addition, we sense that the world is becoming a highly competitive place and that Ireland has to respond, not just to European political demands, but also to global economic realities.

Taken together, it’s difficult to imagine a more out-of-touch political class and this observation goes from the cabinet right down to the social partners.

If they are not in a position to figure out what the people are afraid of, do you think they have the smarts to galvanise the country to face the economic challenge of the next few years?

Last week, the economic data was unambiguously weak as the labour market turns and retail sales fall for the third successive month, at a time when inflation is rising. The entire edifice — which was built on buying and selling property to each other financed by other people’s money -h as come crashing down. More significantly, as the property boom enveloped most small towns and villages, the downturn is being felt everywhere.

We have to ask ourselves whether the people who orchestrated the shambolic Lisbon campaign are the people we should trust to get this economy going again. Have these characters the vision to draw the strands together, focus on the solution and execute what is required?

What do you think is more likely in the next 18 months: a final smash-and-grab to loot the last of the family silver by the various grubby vested interests, or a clear, unselfish economic plan which puts the people first?

Ireland needs to look at another way of doing business. We are facing a huge challenge on a number of economic fronts including the property market, our brittle banking system and endemic public sector inefficiency, as well as the rising dilemma of mass immigration in a contracting economy.

An interesting way of looking at the threats we face is to regard the global economy as a theatre of war. If we are prepared and our defences are strong, we should have little to worry about.

However, we now know that Ireland has been bingeing, while the rest of the competitive world has been working. They are fitter, hungrier and more focused than us. The best measure of this is our burgeoning current account deficit, which evidences our delinquency.

Ireland is engaged in a war for resources, talent and profit. All over the globe there are new fronts opening, new battles and skirmishes – all underscored by a high stakes intelligence game to see what others are doing, where they are deploying their power and in what guise they are likely to attack next. From a military perspective, the solution to Ireland’s issues is quite straightforward.

The great military campaigns of our time have one thing in common: when the sovereign was threatened, the people pulled together to repel the threat. A war cabinet was instigated and orders were given clearly. Failure was not an option. Everyone realised what had to be done and where money needed to be spent.

The best brains in the country were used, the best planners were given rein and old, petty animosities were set aside for the greater good. This was benign patriotism, sparked by a foreign threat to security.

Today, Ireland faces a threat to our prosperity and we need a similar war cabinet, staffed by our smartest people.

This means opening up the national executive to non-political experts. Irish business needs to get involved in a national plan that re-invents the country. Business leaders should step forward as citizens to play their part in re-imagining the economy.

Many countries have done something similar. Malaysia put a 20-year plan together in the 1990s, seconding the best brains from the private sector to run much of it – as did Finland, Singapore and Israel at various stages in the past 30 years.

The key to active patriotism is to resuscitate the idea of the good citizen driven by a sense of patriotic volunteerism.

If the cabinet could see that the future of the country is too important to be left to politicians and civil servants, we could open up governance, using ‘best practice’ rather than local politics and turf wars as the yardstick.

In addition, some of our best and brightest business minds who have opted to be tax exiles rather than pay tax here might be persuaded of the virtue of good citizenship, rather just the bulging bank balance. Both sides could benefit from ‘patriotic volunteerism’.

The state could give responsibility to those who have proved they can manage and those who have managed would have the opportunity to shoulder national, rather than private, responsibility.

Some might argue that, in a global economy, there is little small countries can do, but this is not just nonsense, it is a cop-out. More to the point, connectivity is the key. If there is something good going on in one country, the news will spread like wildfire, sucking in the curious with their talents, capital and networks.

According to last week’s New York Times, the world has 1.4 billion plugged-in internet users and that number is growing by 250million a year. There are three billion mobile phones in the world with another billion coming in the next three years.

Ten hours of video are being uploaded on YouTube every minute of every day. This connectivity revolution, where the best salespeople for ideas will be individuals playing a giant game of ‘pass it on’, is ideally suited to dramatic initiatives. The country with the best idea will be the most talked about.

So rather than diminish a national rejuvenation project, the internet and globalisation will reinforce its strength. And most significantly, after last week’s EU carry-on, ‘active patriotism’ is precisely the opposite of what the Lisbon Treaty was trying to do: rather than give away more powers to some remote body, the solution is in our hands.

We know best what we have to do and we can, as a nation, sort it out.


  1. VincentH

    There are ‘notions’ out there that the ‘No’ vote was as a result of the various No campaigners, likewise the ‘Yes’ people are being blamed for not doing enough.
    And while there may be some truth to this on the ‘yes’ side of things, it holds little contact with reality on the other.
    When the establishment asks us to vote in a referendum, they hand over control to the Sovereign and this they forgot. They forgot that they became little more than advisers. They forgot that We take our Constitution very very seriously indeed. They forgot that we need sound reasons for any tinkering with it. They forgot that for most party politics are out the window where the Constitution is concerned.
    Your idea on patriotism might work, but the vote the other day was a good example of it at work, when allowed.

  2. The Marie Antoinette analogy is very accurate. The elites want us to eat cake and accept the transfer of sovereignty to unelected officials in Brussels. You are also correct in asking whether our current elite has what it takes to dig the economy out of its hole, and that we are concerned about mass-immigration. In my opinion Cowen has already shown poor judgement – especially on the stamp-duty question. He arrogantly rebuffed PD and FG advice on this issue and the housing-crash and mass-unemployment are part of the result of this. Another aspect of this is immigration, which fuelled an overheating property-market pushing prices out of the reach of most people, bringing the crash closer. The question is would a Rainbow govt have done any better? I have my doubts, considering Labour’s links to the unions.

  3. Krystof Woroniecki

    No nation is an island and Ireland is no island in Europe anymore in time of globalization. We have to establish correct linkwork between peoples of EU to makes EU works to benefit its peoples instead of eurocratic elite with hidden agendas.

    As far as immigration in Ireland is concerned, in Polish case this is direct result of anti-Polish policy of Berlin-Paris axis, which wants to make Euro Reich out of EU. This was also magnifying due to their classic extension of this axis to Moscow neo-Stalinist-fascist Putin. That reminiscent Vichy-Hitler-Stalin and Mussolini policy. Franco-German-Russian imperialism served by Putin loving Berlusconi with his macaroni fascism in red tomato communist sauce.

    Eurocrats elite supports that axis or is indifferent to that problem. Due to that many Polish firms with huge export to Russia collapsed and many thousands of Poles find themselves without a work. With blocked doors to Germany and France, although Poles are EU members, they were forced by mentioned axis to come to Britain and Ireland. So it all come up to that what I explained in details in my previous posts.

    The solution of the problem is very simple one. We have to return EU to its people and outs Eurocrates that are still thinking in old well-established imperialistic ruts seeing only powerful states. But blinded to the peoples end ethnic problems created intentionally by the imperialistic principle divide at imperia by the practices of Germans, Austrians, English, Russians and Turks which goes on till this days. (Partition of Yugoslavia by Germans, Croats and Albanians, splitting EU economical unity by Schroder-Putin Pact, recent Putin-Berlusconi pact and Putin pipeline pacts with Hungarians and Bulgarians – all former Nazi collaborators.)

    As I mentioned before Irish and Polish peoples have almost identical experience how that old euro-imperialism works, so being now on opposite geographic poles of that Union our unity and cooperation in common goals can really change EU for good of all European peoples.

  4. B

    Er Krystof we are an island… See all the water there?

  5. Johnny Dunne

    All the talk before the vote was a “no” would give us no options ? Sarkozy seems now to be saying let’s listen to what the Irish want ?

    As you mention “the solution is in our hands.”, Hopefully more businesspeople will now engage in real debate on practical policies !

    Interesting, all the main business groups promoted a “Yes” vote. Considering the reult, I’m not sure if that was representative ?

  6. Krystof Woroniecki

    B, I do not see any water, I did not have chance yet to visit Ireland. But I am having a conversation with you in Ireland, I do know Irish history and prehistory, I know where Irish peoples came from and why some of you have dark hair and some are blond.

    So you see Ireland is not an island anymore in economical, political and communication sense. And as I mentioned above decisions made by Moscow, Berlin and Paris caused economical immigration to Ireland from Poland. This is what matters in here.

  7. Deco

    David. The key position with regard to steering us through this crisis is the Minister, who will be in charge of the nation’s finances. Let’s look at the current office holder, he knowledge of this area, and his rate of acheivement in government.

    Brian Lenihan is the current minister for Finance. He is well qualified in the legal area. He was previously Minister for Justice, Equality, Law Reform. His period of responsibility for the Justice portfolio lasted ten months. In ten months, working in a area where he was eminently qualified, a young energetic minister should have acheived a lot. This is a an area of government that affects the lives of people. But, instead, he achieved next to nothing. One piece of legislation of significance in the last month as Minister for Justice, concerning drunken behaviour. Crime continued to sky rocket under his tenure. There were prime time documentaries about the drug problem. He responded first by being on holidays. When he came back completely dismissed criticism and ignored the issues. Finally, he eventually managed to comment. He told the citizenry that the media were exaggerating the crime problem, and that people knew that it was not really as bad as the media and the statistics were indicating. Unbelievable. What do you do with a Minister who cannot handle a crisis ? Brian Cowen promoted him. The (Dublin) media praised Cowen for putting a minister for a Dublin contituency in charge of the state finances. Despite the obvious fact that Lenihan knows nothing about economics.

    We know have a completely clueless Minister for Finance. McCreevy and Ahern were accountants. Cowen and Quinn were lucky, as there were positive growth trajectories when they started in office. McSharry and Reynolds were self made entrepreneurs who saved every penny, who dealt honestly with others, who never drank, and who were so tight and efficient with money that they could live on the dole, if they had to. But Lenihan is the wrong man in the wrong job. Completely out of his dept. Almost like Tsar Nicholas II in 1903. Officially everything is fine. Just like in 1900 for Nicholas Romanov.

    With ministers like this, it is no wonder people realised that they knew better than the polticians. The last thing we need is a bumbling barrister who knows nothing about economics, who has lived on the public payroll for all his working life, who was raised in a family that lived on the public payroll. Lenihan is completely oblivious to the real economy, at a time when the real economy is getting harsh and tough.

    We need a McSharry or an Albert to get us through this patch. None of the political parties seem to have anybody of this level of financial astuteness. Somebody in charge who has learnt the hard way, how to improve one’s finances by hard honest graft. And anyway, if there was a senior politician in the Dail, with such ability, in all probability, the advertising drive media would have them ridiculed long ago, anyway.

  8. Deco

    Future Taoiseach. The unions element of the Irish Labour Party is probably the brains of the party. Ever listen to Joan Burton, Joanna Tuffy, Kathleen Lynch ???
    They are all completely irrelevant and daft. Throw in Michael D Higgins, Ruairi Quinn,Phat Rabbitte, etc.. Dessie O’Malley said that labour would go mad if they got into government. And sure enough. Everytime the Labour Party got into government they lost all reason and instigated silly ideas. And never ceased implementing silly ideas. And FG never stopped them.

    The inadequacies of the opposition are the reason why FF are always in power. The 1967 spoiled brat revolutionaries discovered liberal socialism, and created great careers out of the public payroll for themselves. It seems however that most people can understand that they are unfit for any positions of responsibility.

  9. B

    Krystof, Ireland is an island. We have no land connection to any part of Europe.

    Deco, Ahern has never proved he is an accountant. There are funnily enough no records of him qualifying. And I wouldn’t go around connecting ministers with competency. Most of them can hardly tie their shoelaces together. Lenehan comes from a posh school in the city centre that has an attitude removed from the majority of Irish people. I know because I was about 5 years behind his youngest brother in the same institiution.

    I would agree with you that the opposition are a mess. They couldn’t run a piss up in a brewery, they would run out of beer. FF are a shower of manual self lovers but they are the best of a below average bunch. That said I do not vote for them. And if this was (God forbid) the UK Cowan would have resigned after losing lisbon.

  10. GOM

    But what way will it go now?

    The opposition cannot say the government f**ked it up, the Govt. can’t say the opposition f**ked it up! I hope that we will see people of character among this political establishment that will take responsibility and not waste more time bickering and making political over and under tones. We definitely need an enterprising leadership to chart these “unchartered waters” they say we have just entered.

    There is not an emergency because we rejected Lisbon, there is an emergency because of the externalities that have and are causing havoc with our credit, labour markets, competiveness and marketability. The Lisbon vote will show a strong rejection of all the major political parties’ messing and off-focus activities such as the sh*t we are being exposed to by the alleged wrong doings of a past Taoiseach. Already, perhaps superficial, analysis is demonstrating a huge irresponsibility of the main political parties in their approach to this campaign….. http://www.ireland.com/focus/thelisbontreaty/analysis/polls/no.jpg / http://www.ireland.com/focus/thelisbontreaty/analysis/polls/yes.jpg

    They all need to cop on and start listening if they are the people to bring us forward. To politicos this must be a delicious scenario – none of the principal political establishment can point the finger at each other and if they do, this will definitely be the first party to ruin its chances of being involved with anything progressive.

  11. Glen Quinn

    I think we should have another general election and encourage new talented people to run for office because lets face it our present government are too week and are not patriotic. Why would a government want to change our constitution so that the people can’t vote on big issues, this is what dictators do.

    I think Cowan should have the desincey to resign and we should have another general election where we can have a strong patriotic government who are not going to give the country away to a foreign power on a silver plater (It last happened to us in the 13 century, where the pope signed us over to the British).

    COWEN SHOULD RESIGN
    COWEN SHOULD RESIGN
    COWEN SHOULD RESIGN
    and
    COWEN SHOULD RESIGH

  12. Guys, can you all calm down a bit.
    The No campaign spent the last few months spreading lies about the treaty and most Irish people were taken in by these lies, is that really all the governments fault? I did some campaigning for the yes side and I can tell you that the reasons given by some people for voting no were pathetically simplistic and had nothing to do with the treaty; they were nationalistic small islander comments. Some small portion of blame must also be laid at David McWilliams feet, it was he who said, in a recent popular television programme, that Ireland should leave the EU and the Euro. Great for grabbing headlines, (trying to copy Dunphys approach perhaps?), but an appalling analysis of where the future of this country lies, just look at what happened to a small open countries currency recently e.g. Iceland.
    Most of the Irish public, yes and No voters, preferred to watch ‘The Apprentice’ on TV instead of researching the treaty and I would be slow to expect too much from those same people if we left the EU.

    One example of a lie by the No campaign. They said that we should vote no to avoid losing a commissioner in 2012. If the Lisbon treaty fails we will lose our commissioner next year instead, thats what we voted for in the Nice treaty. Not only were the public too slow to cop on but the Irish media’s performance was pathetic. Where’s Jeremy Paxman when you need him.It’s too easy to blame the government, we are all to blame. But then saying that doesn’t sell any newspapers.

  13. GOM

    I do not blame the Govt. per ser BUT as part of an appauling YES campaign they take a huge part of that and should do. This was not like a national election so why did all the Policital Parties (on both sides of the argument) think that putting their faces on posters instead of the YES they promoted was clever? They were also always on the defencive to the ridiculous points such as the “our commissioner, abortion, conscription etc.. instead of being straight forward about what the treaty means. IBEC also said “it was bad for business” if we voted NO with no follow up to it even to say that businesses will find it more difficult to market goods in a negatively sympathetic climate in Europe to Ireland.

    There was no recognition that in order to convince people, the YES side had to acquaint people again, with the EU, its workings, and where it fits in our strategy. Furthermore there was (and still seems to be) no recognition of the state of the economy and what this means as people worry about their future, the security of their job, mortgage etc…genuine fears that skilled politicians and leaders could have woven into their case and brought people along with them.

    I agree if DMcW promoted leaving the EU and Euro as fairly crass for someone of his supposed education and a review of, e.g., this http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/729 will pour water on us ever leaving the Euro.

    There is no doubt though that this was a failure of the major political parties to engage their constituency and they should be very worried about being so out of touch.

  14. David Mc Williams

    Thanks for all the comments on Lisbon. The result is clearly not the end of the world by any stretch. Just to clarify, Arthur like many campaigners (on both sides) you seem to have an uneasy relationship with the truth. I have never said that we should leave the EU, what I did say is that EMU is not in our interests and as the financial balance sheet of the country deteriorates, we might have to question the wisdom of a currency union in an economic system that has no fiscal transfers.

    If Euro interest and exchange rates move as they have been over the next year or two, the monetary contraction in Ireland will become so acute that unemployment/foreclosures/defauts/bankruptcies will rise to a much higher rate than is necessary. No other sovereign democracy has experienced this type of deflationary scenario without a significant monetary policy reaction, normally a devaluation. As we do not have this option, we are faced with the idea of EMU and a long recession or no EMU and a shorter one. This is our dilemma, I’m not too sure that anyone has the answer, but you certainly won’t get near the solution without entertaining the analysis.

    If you’d care to read more on these ideas, Arthur, pick up a copy of the Generation Game.

    Finally. I believe that in the coming decades, the EU will change so profoundly that Ireland will become increasingly and positively, semi-detached from it. The increasing power of networks, the internet and connectivity – together with the flow of ideas, capital and people is making soverignety and government to government alliances less important. The idea of top-down treaty based eceonomics belongs to the 20th century and is inconsistent with both globaliastion and the communications revolution. Technology and individual expression has give the State, with its dirigiste impulses, the elbow.

    Our best option is to aim towards building an open trading economy and ultimately we should look to the trading city-states of the middle ages as our political model.

    Anyway enough of that, thanks again David

  15. Philip

    If I may make a computer analogy…Ireland is going thro an Economic ReBoot. Wehn we come back online, it;ll be a little different – rules will be completely changed. Now is the time to start writing them. Internet/ Mobile/ and notions of sovereignty all need to be put in the mix. Come on paddies start being imaginative!! Diaspora may neeed to be couched in terms of an e-diaspora.

  16. MK

    Hi David,

    Your war analogy is correct. And during ‘harder more challenging’ times, countries should go on a ‘war footing’. Code Red, as it were. But Ireland, and other countries and regions, are always in competition for resources, talent, business, etc. We have done reasonably well, at times. However, we have also not done reasonably well at other times, as what you say is correct:

    > we now know that Ireland has been bingeing, while the rest of the competitive world has been working. They are fitter, hungrier and more focused than us.

    The recent failings in our economy, the effects of which we are just now seeing, were in fact sown in the last decade or so, and are an example of how poor Ireland can be at this “war” at times. The “war cabinet” was splashing out in the “officers mess” oblivious to what was happening in the battlegorund and giving pay rises to their own clerical staff (civil/public services), etc.

    Your request for a ‘war cabinet’ using outseide external help with exective powers though will fall on deaf ears. For one, we as a nation do not compete as a nation, as a team. We have no history of an actual war, where people have made collective sacrifice, where ego’s have learned to take the harder road, and where people have voluntarily made their own financial positions worse, which is what’s needed. Wars of rebellion dont count and certainly civil wars, which we are probably best at(!), are a different nature. In fact, the latter is probably what we are good at. The Lisbon Treaty was a small manifestation of that, and of course the oft-and-now-softly-remembered Keane/McCarthy/Saipan affair is another example. Indeed the latter was vociferously discussed and more than the Lisbon Treaty was.

    We are in uncharted waters with our economy, at least to the current ‘bunch’. I agree with the poster that Brian Lenihan is not a good fit for Finance. However, I’m willing to give everyone a chance though, even a green-horn, as lets be realistic, do we really trust accountants to run our finances? His track record doesnt fill me with much confidence either though.

    As for your comment entry David and the discussion of Ireland in EMU/Euro, I still think that we are better in it, and we will just have to do adjustments elsewhere rather than having a floating ‘Irish Krone’ and adjustable interest rates with the power of devaluation, etc. Devaluation is a useful tool to reduce public sector costs in one fell swoop, but we dont have it so we will have to grab that nettle and other cost base issues in another way. So, politically, thats where the battle needs to be fought, at least one of the fronts. The ‘eastern front’ is competing with all the new EU member states business-wise, and of course there is the globalised model where we are competing every day. We need to stay in the EU as we bridge the Boston/Berlin divide. US and other MNC’s want to be in a Euro environment, although I agree that EU is the impertaive (as many are in the UK also).

    There are many fronts, we are not good at fighting wars, and we have a poor ‘war cabinet’ ….

    MK

  17. The examples you give (Finland, Singapore, etc) of countries that brought in business minds to re-vitalise matters tend to have a more unified goal and willingness to sublimate selfish desires for the wider good. You neglected to mention some of the other countries where the lines between businees and politics were blurred (Chile, Argentina, Russia, China) that were less……..altruistic. Do you believe that if business men in this country are handed the reigns of power that they will be restrained and not instigate changes to benefit themselves, most likely to the detriment of the small fry? I don’t buy laissez faire captalism, it just frees up the big predators and turns the rest of us into a bait ball. To my mind you are using the language and tactics of the disaster capitalist in this article. Can we have the “Government should support indigenous high tech start-ups” argument back please?

  18. Nick

    First up, I would probably have voted Yes if I was living in Ireland (I am an expat) and I still think our future probably lies in Europe.

    However, is it just me or is anyone else a little disgusted – and frankly astounded – by some of the language being bandied about over the weekend by some of our so called “European Partners” such as the French FM who – it would appear – believes that us little Irish should be “grateful”. Since when did structural funds etc come with these strings attached? Are we supposed to have been so happy *doffs forelock* with our European silver and supposedly “bought off” that we are expected to just lie down, get back in our little kennel and do what we are told by our, clearly, far cleverer ‘overlords’ in Paris and elsewhere?? Is that the deal? ‘Cos if it is I won’t nothing to do with it anymore.

    What a disgrace! What a nerve to be so condescending to a nation’s choice. I am really outraged and offended by this guy.

    We’ve spent the last century being looked down on and lectured to by elitist idiots like this guy and I for one utterly resent it. How dare he bark at us like that !

    If he is so confident of us claims why does he not simply ask the French people (via a Ref) what they think of the Lisbon Treaty?? I think we all know the reason why.

    I just hope that our leaders put some of these people back in their box this week if confronted by them.

    Ps. I reckon there were quite a lot of people who actually changed from a Yes to a No after hearing this guy’s enlightened comments prior to the vote. So, well done mate – real genius !

  19. David Mc Williams

    Thriftcriminal, I think you can have both State encouragement of start ups and businessmen shouldering patriotic responsibility. In all these iniatives you don’t have to coerce anyone who doesn’t want to get involved but the power of the willing in such ventures can be remarkable. Let’s not drown ourselves in cynicism just yet! best david

  20. Fair enough. BTW it was your site (via Leviathan) that got me reading The Shock Doctorine and raised my level of cynicism :-)

  21. kieran daly

    Why has nobody focused on the sheer folly of joining the Euro and pretending that Dublin was in the same class as Milan or Madrid as a city?.Ireland is hopelessly uncompetitive compared with America where a private in the Army starts on $17,000 and the average wage across the economy is $17 per hour.In the Irish public sector which employs 25% of all employees the average is $40 per hour.That is the problem. Can’t imagine the Govt imposing a wage freeze for 4 years.The look on Gay Mitchell’s face on Saturday was classic.

  22. GOM

    Thriftcriminal, there are many, many historical examples of seemingly distasteful alliances bearing fruit in a longer run for the greater good. Probably one of the most distasteful I can think of was CJH and Dermot Desmond putting together the plan for the IFSC – I don’t think anyone could accuse either of them not to be primarily focussed on their best interests but the resulting impetus this initiative gave to the Irish economy cannot be denied.

  23. Krystof Woroniecki

    Dear Friends

    As in age of globalisation Irish See suddenly shrunk to the size of large European river I suppose deeply imbedded islander thinking have to adapt to the 21 century European reality. Otherwise as I mentioned early in my comments Germans with French collaboration and Russians (who are not even in EU) will decade what is going on in Ireland. I have given one example that their decisions caused migration to Ireland from Poland.

    But that was just one example how Berlin, Paris and Moscow decide what is going on in the rest of Europe including Ireland. London will just opt out as usually caring about its own interest only. Think what the rest of us have to do to avoid making out of EU Euro Reich ruled in reality from Berlin with Paris and Brussels collaboration.

    Ireland will also become such a Euro Reich province if in the next decade Lisbon Treaty somehow will be implemented fully. At present Germans are very active on eastern front. With collaborators help they partitioned Yugoslavia, which Hitler failed to do and now getting more support from the old collaborates of Third Reich in the next attack. They turned now against Poland with clearly exposed plans and treaties to cut her energetic veins thus destroy economically. If that happens – you can expect much lager Polish migration to Ireland.

    NPD neo-Nazi party is legal in Germany and receive 10% votes in some lands and that is growing supported be German government funding. They openly demand partition of Poland. German media started slander propaganda against Poles similar to that in 1930. Brussels and Euro Parliament collaborate with all of that, passively or actively. Especially they were active in Yugoslavia partition. Lately they voted slanderous accusations against Poland in Euro Parliament because Polish population holds to Christian values. Hower they are saying nothing about neo-Nazi racist rage violence against Poles. That simply means present Eurocrats collaborate in building Euro Reich for Germany. They have to be stopped and de-neo-Nazify. To do that we need new ally coalition inside EU. Just link up and unite all the people around Europe who wants EU but not in the form of Franco-German Frankenstein surrounded by partitioned satellite provinces.

    There is an old organic alternative to that monster wiped a way from history books because in the last four centuries history was written by the same stock of warmongers.

  24. GOM

    It all depends on your metric. I am deeply suspicious of the overly simplified metric of economic growth. All growth patterns undergo a classic pattern of 4 phases, Lag, Log, Stationary and Decline. We are in the Log phase still but Stationary will come and will bite us all. I would sooner engineer a comfortable stationary phase that defers the decline as much as possible, instead of allowing for catastrophe.

  25. GOM

    Agreed, but in general, each growth pattern can be taken as a unit itself and the trend is generally up, all other things remaining constant, e.g., no war, no natural disasters… An interesting metric for this would be to ask the question, is it better to be poor in a modern Ireland or the one of the 80s, 50s, or 30s?

    Not sure which cam first, the use of this model to map the growth of bacteria or economic development….. but I always find it interesting that so called “man made” phenomena relate to naturally occuring phenomena… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacterial_growth

  26. Arthur Shirran

    David,

    In referance to your comment above. My apologies if you never stated in your TV show that Ireland should leave the EU. The thrust of your argument being that Ireland should leave the Euro and refocus away from Europe to the international Irish family, (who unfortunately are decreasing in size and importance). I think that this type of academic idea was quite popular among the public and appealed to their nationalistic/ empire building instincts. But it is an unhelpful and misleading diversion for the immediate problems we face. I feel that it contributed to the publics feeling that we could prosper without Europe during the Lisbon debate.

    Regarding your proposal that treaty’s and international agreements are becoming less important. I disagree and think that you are mixing up cause and effect. The world and especially Europe is ‘opening up’ because of treaty’s and not in spite of them. Take Ryanair, it is only a success story now because European countries agreed to deregulate their airspace which was agreed by treaty, (more needs to be done). In the longer term the sole hyper-power, the US, will be joined by others like the EU, China and India. When this happens treaties will become crucial because there will be no one dominant power.

  27. Ireland is/was a show-case for the power development of Europe. The show is over with the first lethal blow: property scam – that started when the new tec. boom burst around 2000 – collapse. We could be seeing the first major implode of capitalism we’ve heard so much about . I think maybe we are, and thought frightened glad to see it. It comes with the collapse of our eco system due to exploitation strange, or synchronistic perhaps.
    Dar David, I think it’s time to stop thinking what is to again replace the property scam, because you know well what happens, and the inevitable is postponed a little longer. The party’s over. Time to (as my Father used to say to me) get back to sanity. The start to such would be to slow down, and admit we will have to pay the price, the real price of labor, and production. If you don’t got the price you save, and sit on an orange box till then.

  28. Bob

    To B,

    On the island comment, yes Ireland is an island geographically, but not politically or economically. Your childish insistence on “but we’re an island” is frankly embarrassing. I suppose you’re going to write to Simon & Garfunkel next to point out that in fact we are not “islands in the stream” ?

    To Krystof,

    For all our sakes I hope you are wrong.

    Bob

    Bob

  29. fingahs08

    Arthur – In terms of numbers and influence the Irish international family is neither shrinking in size or importance – a strong argument could be made for just the opposite. What is always at risk of diminishing and degrading is the connection to the Irish identity held by millions worldwide. Right now, it’s a fairly healthy connection but the thrust of David’s works, I think, is that Ireland needs to start working at the relationship it has with its extended family in new and creative ways. It’s not really an academic idea – power and strength come from numbers. We have the numbers, they just happen to be overseas, and most of them aren’t on mainland Europe.

  30. Garry

    The net result is we voted against something that all our political parties (except the shinners and the lunatic/vegan fringe in the greens) recommended. In fact, I almost voted no due to the incompetence of the Yes side in refusing to tell it like it is…. but in the end I voted Yes due to the politicians on the No side telling outright lies!!! …………a damming indictment of a campaign if ever there was one.

    What I found unsettling was the surprise at the No vote, practically everyone I knew was voting no; it seems like the disconnect with the people extends to the media and even the bookies.

    Agree with you Arthur on your comments on our host, our problems are not because we are in the Euro, they are because of dreadful management of our economy since 2000. And of course the US economic mismanagement but we cant control that.

    “Ireland is engaged in a war for resources, talent and profit. All over the globe there are new fronts opening, new battles and skirmishes -” Right David, but the real wars are being fought for the same old resources.

    I reckon I voted differently to Glen but I do agree with him ………. Brian Cowen should resign.. But God save us from a coalition of the Shinners and Patricia McKenna, which is what this vote would point to. But if thats what the people want …

    The No vote is not the end of the world. Pending his resignation Biffo should live up to his name and publicly challenge all countries to put the treaty before their electorate before criticizing the decision of the Irish people. Tell it like it is and leave the way clear for his successor to mend fences.

    Resign Brian, the people have spoken.

  31. Philip

    Guys, unless we understand our limits and constraints and the extent of what we can and have achieved, we are on a hiding to nothing. The French and Germans etc are right to be condescending. We should be mature enough to hear the real message and do something about it and stop being so indignant. We are a bunch of jumped up noisy scroungers and the fact that most of us continue to vote the the crowd that’s in power proves it. QED!

    We still think and act like islanders and are to a large extent dominated by the parochialism of islanders. Our population is small (barely that of an average sized city in Europe). Our one and only claim to greatness is we make a lot of noise and possess an amount of innocence that we probably can look bigger than we actually are. That particular game is now up.

    Now, that said, I think we also need to realise that the problems assaulting Ireland are hitting the rest of the world as well. The level of genuine suffering in the US rust belts and troubles ramping in the UK is real. This will ripple through to the rest of Europe. The Germans need to keep flopping Mercs and Beemers etc. and that market is drying up – fast. This is a global issue.

    Furthermore, there is a nonsense promulgated in these sites and similar that growth is the the only future…recovery = growth = nirvana…Now those of you with some modicum of sense will see that this is a non-starter (and I do not even have to look at eco issues – more mundane problems of organisational inertia, aging population, contentment stagnation etc) and David and the rest of you pumping this kind of rhetoric need to wake up fast. The notion of the entrepreneur making a few million to employ a few lads making some innovative thingy or whatever needs to be recognised for the cognitive twaddle it is. We are being entrapped by words that had meaning decades ago when such transitions made sense. It’s Milton Friedmann horse doo doo no matter how you couch it.

    Also, gimme a break from the wholly cracked idea of a few philantropists coming together with the government to make things happen. Pyschologically it just wont happen. When in power, you never let go. Payback is the addiction and mixing Freidmann bollikology with Social responsibility (really a right wing WASP concept) is old school.

    Back to Europe – Krystof’s view of the 4th Reich with the French in tow – being the ultimate aim of the EU federation is probably going to happen anyway. Unless China, Russia and Middle East somehow become become more democratic (unlikely as they are making their system work using strong man theory and leveraging the best in 21st century info tech to do it), Europe will have to go this route as well – with or wthout Ireland.

    Rules are changing. I suspect a regression in terms of national rule coupled with easier control of the citizen. Can Ireland stand outside of this? I suspect its neutrality is important here and is its extensive positive contacts with the world. We may become the neutral ground for disparate power blocks to trade. Brokering may be our future as it probably will match our mindset. Our goverment, institutions and businesses will need to capture this concept becasue it may be the only reason for our existance and the key source of our wealth. We should focus on building integrity over making money as the route for our progress to make this a reality

  32. Deco
    If you investigate the matter I think you will find that the (Dublin) media are for the most part from rural Ireland. For instance, just look at the line up of Newstalk 106 hosts, the journalists in the mainstream newspapers and most prominantly RTE. Dubs are as rare as a Minister at Lisbon Final Count.

    Regards
    Rob

  33. Blow in

    This quoted article to follow sums it up for me……The Sunday Business Post June 15 2008. Around 300 fishing boat owners, skippers and crew members met in Athlone yesterday to decide their response to last Friday’s nine-hour meetings between the Federation of irish fishermen and two minters about concern over rising fuel price. After the meeting agriculture and fisheries minister Brendan Smith and junior minister Tony Killen announced they would meet the EU fisheries commissioner Jo Borg in Brussels on wednesday to look for an immediate aid package for irish fishing industry. (talk about not biting the hand that feeds you) Germany has a population of 82 million Spain 44m Italy 58m France 61m and Ireland has a population of 4 million holding europe to ransom i think the rest of europe thinks Ireland took the money and ran watch this space Ireland will go back to the good old dark ages……good luck with the no vote

  34. Stephen Kenny

    Phillip

    It’s an interesting idea, but do you really think that Ireland can take on Switzerland as the land of commercial and political neutrality? Ireland has a strongly US flavour, possibly because of the huge Irish lobby in the US, Switzerland merrily stashes Nazi gold and says “it’s just business”.
    One possible alternative is to take over the British role as the 51st US state, it means having to put up with a lot of unadulterated nonsense, but it’s a role that has benefits, so they say.

  35. Garry

    Philip, agree 100% that “unless we understand our limits and constraints and the extent of what we can and have achieved, we are on a hiding to nothing”….

    The rest of what you’re saying is thought provoking. I guess it depends on whether you see technology/innovation providing another quantum leap or whether old style resource constraints will catch up with us. Either way, things will change, so the “If in doubt, Vote No” should have been ruthlessly exposed as the BS that it is.

    I hope Krystof is wrong. But maybe he should have a quick look at limits and constraints and compare European history both pre and post EU/EEC formation and draw his own conclusions as to where our interests are. And think about the context of either tech providing another growth spurt or being resource constrained. In both cases, I would submit we are better off inside the tent.

  36. GOM

    Philip, “We should focus on building integrity over making money as the route for our progress to make this a reality” – the recent events, whether we like them or not, to many in Europe and the ROW demonstrate the fickle nature of any Irish alliance, this alone will scupper your idea of building integrity from the get-go.

    There are states with the same population/demographic as ours that punch way above their weight but for differing reasons – I agree we need to assess what we can achieve but we also need to decide on what we focus on. This article does point to one truth – in times of emergency focus is necessary and should be absolute. Another truth is accepting that you are on your own, i.e., nobody else will or is responsible for getting you out of the s**t. When we wake up to this, and maybe we have forced it a little more by rejecting Lisbon, the next step may become more clear.

    Brian Cowen had a chance to make a dramatic entry by getting a Yes vote in the Lisbon referendum but he blew it (ironically with the rest of the mainstream political parties). Now with the external forces you point to looming and the distraction of how to put together some way forward with the EU (who largely will want to press ahead with Lisbon I believe) he has another chance to show if he has the qualities of greatness needed to lead in such times.

  37. Diogenes

    “Today, Ireland faces a threat to our prosperity and we need a similar war cabinet, staffed by our smartest people.”

    Sounds good, Dave, but in practice this sort of thing degrades into professional politicians who know nothing about any practical subject listening to the advice of professional consultants whose “education” has been so specialised as to be little more than worthless.

    The crisis is the result of artificially low interest rates instituted by the ECB and the FED which for all practical purposes resulted in the replacement by speculation of what might have been investment in a less manipulated economy.

    You are spot on with why we won the war, but in times of peace back-stabbing, bribes, and lies become the norm, and the good-guys are at a terrible disadvantage.

    The solution is to re-create a situation where politicians have to respond to the experience and demands of people active in the real economy, one clever way would be to put an end to the political class in Europe by not admitting the losers in elections to the public trough. Let the electoral losers find a job in the real world…and I don’t suggest they get posts in think-tanks, as public lecturers, nor at our universities.

    The best short term solution is demand that the vote be extended beyond Ireland…where people got it right…not force Europe down our throats…but allowing democracy to put an end to the stupid experiment before it puts an end to us. With the hundreds of billions today wasted by the E.U. we could remedy the economic crisis in a very short time, instead of reducing taxes…end the enormous taxation by a supergovernment that would never be ratified by any people free to chose.

    By the way, the Petroleum crisis can be reduced enormously tommorrow. Buying and selling in markets on Petroleum simply need to be restricted to those who can physically take delivery on the contracts, cutting out e.g. the students and housewives buying up oil futures and artificially increasing the price. A far better option than the thousand some odd nuclear plants that is the European Union’s solution to our energy problems. Or are we to be thrilled by the idea that the Spanish and French will build nuclear plants in Britain in the coming years?

    Your theory on why the vote was no is just that, a theory. Curiously the Irish also voted no to Europe under a different treaty name when the economy was booming. The Danes did so as well. To my knowledge the British public, the Norwegians, the Poles, the Dutch and the Belgians have clearly been against a political union during those glory years of low interest rates and a skyrocketing Euro. Opposition to the Union is based more on its being entirely anti-democratic, and while politicians seem to see democracy as an inconvenience…especially the great number of European ministers who never won an election in their home countries…most Europeans I know just happen to be proud of living…or having lived at least…in democracies.

    Millions gave their life, blood, and/or fortunes for the right to be free citizens who elect their government and demand that it respond to their needs…now that right is being taken away by newscasters, newswriters, elected and non-elected professional politicians. Whether because they are uneducated, or deluded, or brainwashed, or simply well-paid…they do not have the right to deny the people of Europe their right to vote.

  38. Arthur Shirran

    Diogenes,
    The effect of the futures market on the price of oil is completely overstated. As you have mentioned yourself the speculators on the futures market can not take delivery of oil. They sell their options to some one who can take delivery prior to the agreed delivery date. Therefore speculators can only affect the short term price of oil. They can’t increase the use of oil in the world, but their actions make it more likely that there will be a large correction to the price of oil in the medium term.
    I wouldn’t get too carried away with criticizing the French for their nuclear plants; Ireland is one of the most dependent countries on the planet on imported fuel, mainly oil. Not a great situation to be in I would have thought. Not sure what all this had to do with Lisbon, just another attempt to slag off our European friends perhaps.

  39. Krystof Woroniecki

    Dear Friends

    Some do hope I am wrong or I do not understand where long term interests of EU nations as Ireland is. In 1987 I have written an essay what will happen in Germany if top Western political leaders, including British Queen will praise and celebrate, as they did, Adolph Hitler false invention of ‘German capital Berlin birthday’. Remember at that time Iron Curtain was firmly in place and no one expected it would fall down in near future. However no journal in UK and US I approached was prepare to publish it telling me that Germany has change etc.

    Yet we have now what I did predicted 20 years a go. In mid 90s German politician said that no one could predict that after ‘unification of Germany’ Nazism will rise again in Germany. She was wrong because I did predicted but no one wanted to believe in it. Moreover every good politician should predicted it if they only look at present and future in the true context of the past. But they are unable to do so blinded by short-sighted pragmatism.

    That also means that even great majority of Germans, as mentioned above politician, do not understand Germany. That is because theirs own history is falsified to the core continuously since 19 century. Firstly by the proto-Nazi historians of Prussia and then Nazi and crypto-Nazi German historians of the 20th century. As I mentioned before German universities were never de-Nazify.

    My essay written 20 years a go is still on time. It looks to the very root of the problem and outline organic alternative to the present neo-Nazi EU mess in Central Europe. That mess will inevitably affect every EU country, as it was the case during both Great Wars ignited by Germans and Austrians in Serbia and Poland. If there is any interest in it I can publish it on the Internet.

    PS.
    However I have to retype it from the manual and create webpage for it first. Next week it could be on: http://www.europa.pro

  40. Philip

    A note on integrity and Lisbon Treaty

    Although I was a YES voter, I think it would be a very bad idea to try change our minds as a nation. It would damage our image irreparably. The die is cast and the crys and whimpering going on at the moment should not distract from the fact that we are now in the limelight . The next steps are crucial over the next 4-6 weeks (about the life span of a fad). Cowen has a real opportunity to do something very interesting and creative.

    If GAZPROM are anticipating 250 USD to the barrel, you can bet that the gas alternative and will have a bear’s paw on the shutoff valve. Something like that needs to be met head on. So the need for some unified approach is important. Thrashing the treaty is not really an option. But the EU is in dire need of legitimacy and scolding Ireland is not an option if that legitimacy is to retain any value.

    It is clear now that the eurocratic anticipated rubber stamping will not be trivial without some more work on their part. EU integrity needs to become more apparent to the man on the street and Ireland’s No vote seems to have awakened that need. Cowen needs to ensure no one forgets this.

  41. GOM

    Although the initial reaction, according to Micheal Martin is sympathetic, the sentiment of the EU leaders will come home more through their actions. There are mechanisms by which a sub-group of the 27 can move forward. Entering into this type of arrangement, to me, is the worst case scenario for us, i.e., we don’t care about your NO vote, its your problem. The best case is re-negotiation which I don’t think is likely, at least not on all the topics. The problem however, is that the NO campaign, and in particular Libertas, took a “stop this at all costs” approach so the follow up from them is a COMPLETE and other solution, i.e., redraft from the bottom up, change the institutions for more elected positions etc…that will take years.

    Meanwhile, as I pointed out, the distraction to the real issues that will continue to make us go backwards will be massive and benefit other zones outsde the EU.

    One other point – I disagree with your earlier point on not focussing on growth – we need to grow just to avoid going backwards, the rate does not, and will not always be high single figure/double digit but it needs to be positive as a measure of our ability to be competitive.

  42. Bren

    The idea of an economic ‘war council’ of business experts is a very good one David. However, how can we ensure that these experts wouldn’t use that opportunity to become the new vested interests, the same kind of vested interests that drove the planning and construction debacle that has the economy where it is today? How do you determine the purity of a businessman’s patriotism?

  43. Business patriotism is a bit of a dreamy idea. What you’re talking about is really political patriotism. Business can’t be business if it has to take into consideration the percentage of people on the margins of society who do not qualify/benefit from the “trickle down effect.”
    In this country Finland (as you mentioned) business has been advising government in finance, and after twenty years – give or take – you can see the degeneration in society. Finns (ordinary people) who were at one time a pillar of honesty, exemplary, are cheating at every given chance to stay afloat.
    Free education, (Finland boasting the best in Europe) health care/state nursing homes (social services) are in decay.
    As I said the game is up boys. I see over the last forty years using the third world in a return to serfdom has backfired on us. We should not tolerate this exploitation which we know now will only in the end exploit ourselves.

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