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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 October 2002

Ireland's Referendum: How The Bosses Got Their Yes Vote

VOTERS IN southern Ireland have passed the Nice treaty by a significant majority - 63% to 37%. Just over a year ago Irish voters rejected the same treaty by 54% to 46%.

Michael Murphy

More voters turned out this year, up from 34% to 49%. However the 'no' vote increased slightly despite the establishment campaign in favour of Nice. A significant percentage of the Irish population are against Nice but also very suspicious of the European project.

There was an incredible bias towards the 'yes' side particularly in the print media. In the last week, most newspapers carried editorials and front-page leaders calling on people to vote yes.

Socialist Party TD (MP) Joe Higgins estimated that up to 80% of newspaper coverage was given to the 'yes' side, who also outspent the 'no' side by 9:1 on campaign literature, posters and advertising.

Lined up on the 'yes' side were the Irish establishment - the government, the main opposition parties Fine Gael and Labour, the trade union bureaucracy, the church, and big business groups. This was a must-win for the government and the Irish ruling class.

Their standing among the EU bureaucrats had taken a battering after last year's rejection of the treaty. Support for the Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern and his government has plummeted over the spate of cutbacks since the election and also about new corruption allegations that remain unanswered.

Indeed if Nice had been rejected Ahern's days could have been numbered. The stakes were high for the government so they used doom-laden messages to frighten people into voting yes.

Ireland will lose jobs, they said - foreign investment will dry up, Ireland will be isolated in Europe. However the yes side got across the message that Nice was about enlargement of the EU.

They said that if Ireland voted no they would block the entry of up to ten Eastern Europe states to the EU and it would be selfish not to give them the same "opportunities" that Ireland had once had. This was the key reason why so many people voted yes.

The government also used the developing economic slowdown to their advantage. Irish people know the so called "good times" are over and the economic future looks bleak. Many people worried that a no vote would hasten this process.

Privatisation threat

THE NO campaign had two very different sides. The majority side was the Alliance Against Nice initiated by the Socialist Party but also including Sinn Fein, Green Party and some Independent TDs.

The Socialist Party through Joe Higgins TD had a high profile in this referendum. We organised up to 20 public meetings around the country and participated in many more Alliance Against Nice meetings.

Our party put the vital issue of Article 133 of the Nice Treaty, dealing with liberalisation and privatisation of water, postal services, education etc, on the agenda in this campaign.

The other no campaign, of mainly right-wing Catholic fundamentalists from the anti-abortion campaigns and right-wing academics representing nothing, formed the umbrella No to Nice campaign. The media pushed them as somehow speaking for every one on the no side - a deliberate tactic to split the no vote.

Their campaign focused on issues such as immigration but couldn't make this a fundamental issue. It emerged during the campaign that Justin Barrett, their so-called leader, had spoken at a number of extreme right rallies in Germany. This had a certain impact on the vote. These reactionary people turned off some good people who may have voted no.

The media disgustingly held Barrett up as leader of the No side in the debate despite the Alliance Against Nice having 15 TDs in their ranks. However the no vote in Ireland is far from reactionary and these people had relatively little impact on the overall vote.

The yes victory may temporarily lift the pressure on the government.

However in December's budget huge cuts are planned in public spending and the corruption issue hasn't gone away with a number of Fianna Fail politicians in the dock over their links with businessmen and developers.

Even though the Irish people have voted yes to Nice the battle is only starting. Many Irish people in the coming years will realise that they have been duped by the establishment.

Issues such as the push towards a common EU defence force with an EU army will be on the agenda. So will attacks on public services and privatisations as is already happening in many parts of Europe. This will highlight the lies of the yes side.

The Socialist Party will be the main force that will lead a battle against these attacks on Irish workers. Our members are already involved in many battles that will only be heightened by the yes vote to Nice.

A FUTURE issue of The Socialist will carry an article on the implications of the enlargement of the European Union after the Irish referendum.

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In The Socialist 25 October 2002:

Stand By The Firefighters

Protest on 31 October: Stop Bush And Blair's War Plans

Fighting for a Living Wage

Editorial: Firefighters' Struggle Is All Workers' Struggle

Student fees: "Top" Universities Plan Top-Up Fees

Millions Join Italian General Strike

35 years after the Abortion Act: For A Real Right To Choose

Stoke: Racist BNP Pose A Warning To Workers

Ireland's Referendum: How The Bosses Got Their Yes Vote


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