Ireland has now passed the point where it can honestly be deemed an independent country
Published: 19:00 BST, 1 June 2012 | Updated: 19:04 BST, 1 June 2012
Ireland’s ratification of the EU fiscal pact can only be described as abject.
There comes a point when a country has surrendered so much of its sovereignty that its claim to be a self-governing polity expires. Ireland has passed the point at which it can honestly be deemed an independent country. The Republic is in abeyance.
In approving Friday’s referendum, Ireland has voted to hand away its freedom to set its budget according to its own wishes. This absolutely basic task of government was already compromised under the terms of the country’s bail-out. This has already led to the dismaying spectacle of Irish budget details being considered in Berlin before being submitted to parliament in Dublin. Now Ireland has formally voted away its fiscal independence by submitting to Brussels’ superintendence of its future budgets.
Result: Ireland’s voters have given their seal of approval to the European Union’s deficit-fighting treaty
The surrender of monetary policy occurred when Ireland resolved to join the Euro, despite Britain, its most important trading partner, wisely resolving to opt out. Ireland is now a country without independent control over its currency, its taxation policies, or its spending. Added to scant control over its borders and its air, land and sea, can it truthfully any longer be called an independent country?
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The effects of this stripping away of self-government are silent but pernicious.
This week’s referendum was a case in point. The campaign was desultory on both sides, distinguished most of all by a thorough-going cynicism and fatalism. Few in Ireland seriously doubted that rejection of the fiscal compact would inevitably be followed by a second referendum. The Nice Treaty was ran a second time in Ireland, as was the Lisbon Treaty, after both were initially rejected. It is now near impossible to get a believable verdict from the Irish electorate on a European treaty.
Prognosis: Critics warn that tougher deficit rules will do nothing to stimulate desperately needed growth
If turnout figures are a reliable indication, many voters who would ordinarily vote against EU treaties no longer both to travel to the ballot box, knowing that their wishes will simply by overturned or bypassed. This is an electorate bruised by the abuse of referendums by the Eurofederalist Irish elite and cowed by the thought that disobedience to the wishes of Brussels would see the country pauperised with the ruthlessness with which Greece is being ground into the dust to appease the debts of German holders of Greek bonds.
Decision: In approving the referendum, Ireland has voted to hand away its freedom to set its budget according to its own wishes
Then there is the effect of infantilising national politics. Now that the serious decisions concerning Ireland’s future are taken in Europe rather than in Dublin, Irish politics has taken on a puerile aspect, as the only issues within the remit of her politicians are the trivial. Recent months have been consumed by an irrelevant but ferocious controversy over the introduction of a new charge on homeowners. The sums involved are utterly derisory compared with the sums at stake in Ireland’s punitive bail-out. This is the politics of the playground. It is the politics of a country deprived of freedom of choice over the crucial questions concerning its own destiny.
This is seen also in the increasing tendency of the Irish electorate to behave as craven supplicants rather than as citizens of a Republic. The appetite for national independence is nowhere to be seen. The indignity of being a subject province of the emerging Brussels imperium is rarely discussed let alone decried.
So what was it all for, all the long decades of miserable attempts at demonstrating Irish independence? What was the bloody separation from Britain for, if national independence is so lightly esteemed that it is cast away for the improved prospects of a hand-out from another imperial hegemon? What was the point of Ireland’s preening neutrality during the Second World War, to the cost of countless Allied seamen? To what end has the murderous mythology of Irish republican irredentism been tolerated and nurtured well into living memory, if the status of province rather than republic is the willing choice of the Irish elite?
A sober-minded observer of Irish history is unable to watch Ireland’s elective slouch into Euro-mediocrity without profound dismay. Ireland’s ‘Yes’ to the fiscal compact is its ‘No’ to the more strenuous but more honourable path of recovering the responsibilities of self-government.