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Why Europe Needs A New Marshall Plan
As the debate about the fiscal treaty referendum hots up, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a new growth strategy is urgently needed.
The Whole Hog, 29 May 2012
So here we are in referendum mode… again. No doubt the framers of the Irish constitution had many things in mind in its drafting. But one very much doubts that their aims included Swissification – that is, a scenario where myriad issues would be resolved only by a referendum. That, increasingly, seems to be what’s happening.
Our relationship with the Constitution has changed over the last two decades. There are three drivers of this process.
The first is the trench warfare waged by anti-Europe campaigners who have continually, and often successfully, used it to challenge changes accruing from European treaties.
The second is the rise of a largely unheralded movement for participatory (as distinct from representative) democracy.
The third is the broad suspicion of authority amongst Irish people, and a general attitude that we’re all mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, whatever ‘it’ might be, including water charges, property taxes, oil pipelines, electricity pylons, phone masts, windmills, motorways – you-name-it, we’re agin it…
You might argue that these are part and parcel of the democratic process and so they are. But they also make it very difficult to get on with things and to initiate and manage necessary change. Like, for sure we know our rights under the Constitution… but what does it, or should it, say about our responsibilities?
It all fits into the present campaign, in which everything but the kitchen sink will be flung into the mix to win over the floating third – that is, the 30% or so of voters who are never sure which way they’ll go and who generally herd in a particular direction late in the day.
These are the people who gave Bertie his second and third election victories. They swung for Sean Gallagher in the presidential election (when it started to look like he was the man to beat) and then against him after the infamous tweet. They voted against Lisbon, and then for. You know who you are…
The kitchen sink of likely weapons of persuasion includes the election results in France and Greece. What do they mean? Both sides are extracting meanings to suit their cases. Right now, it looks as though Greece will do what (apparently) some opponents of the Treaty want Ireland to do, that is to default, go it alone, face down Europe, the markets, the whole jing-bang lot of them.