Voting Eerily, Voting Often




From top: Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley following the result of the secend Lisbon Treaty referendum, September, 2009; Dan Boyle

The author examines his own voting record on Europe integration and argues that it was never based on opposition to the idea of a European Union or the need to detach ourselves from it.

Dan Boyle writes:

I was nine years old when Ireland voted to become what was then known as the European Economic Community. I had barely been in the country for a year, my family having moved from the United States to my mother’s hometown of Cork.

Even at that stage I had been socially conditioned enough to realise that you should not tilt against the crowd. The message was simple – Yes to joining was good; No to not joining was bad.

The Labour Party offered what passed for opposition to that proposal then. They and the trade unions also spoke then with the same voice. A neighbour identified himself as a No voter. I thought him mad. In the end less than one in five of those who came out to vote voted No.

The government and the political establishment were pleased with the outcome. They presumed that having voted the people would never have to vote again, the issue having once and finally been decided.

Fourteen years later that establishment reckoned without the dogged determination of Raymond Crotty, who won an important Supreme Court decision that any change to the Treaty of Rome would also be a change to the Irish Constitution, which would always require a referendum of the Irish people.

By then I had reached the physical age (if not the emotional maturity) of being an adult. I got to vote in the referendum on the Single European Act. I voted No.

Labour now in government sought a Yes vote. Of all the political parties represented then in Dáil Éireann, only The Workers Party articulated a No position.

In the subsequent referenda – Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice (twice), along with The Greens, I continued to vote No. The reasons were many, and to my mind still quite valid.

What they were never was based on opposition to the idea of a European Union or the need to detach ourselves from it.

There was, and continues to be a fear about some nations within the Union being seen as more equal than others. More than a concern of the existence of a democratic deficit.

A headlong rush into aspects of becoming a single unitary state such as a single currency or the idea of a common army; that were either ill thought out or were never necessary, brought about obvious concerns and doubts.

By the time the Treaty of Lisbon required ratification The Greens were in government in Ireland. It caused considerable debate within the party.

I rationalised a Yes vote on the basis that Lisbon at least corrected some of the worst aspects of Nice. I also voted Yes to the Fiscal Treaty. This was despite having voted against Maastricht because of the way a single currency was being introduced in such an unthought through way.

In 2012 we hadn’t a choice to change course.

Having established residence in Wales to participate in the Welsh Assembly election, I find myself now entitled to vote in the Brexit referendum there.

Unlike all the Irish referenda, Brexit isn’t about a better Europe.

It’s about a mythical Britain. It isn’t about protecting or enhancing the role of nation states. It’s about pandering to bitter isolationists whose superior sense of being can’t abide a World where nations need to co-operate with each other.

My having a vote in this referendum may be a quirk, but this is one windmill I will enjoy tilting at.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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57 thoughts on “Voting Eerily, Voting Often

    1. TheDude

      We have no choice, General Cheese Dog! Our cruisers can’t repel firepower of that magnitude!

  1. bisted

    ‘…My having a vote in this referendum may be a quirk..’ – you having a vote is an abuse of democracy…precisely what the little englanders point to as top of their list of grievances…migrants moving unrestricted and taking advantage.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Hardly. The electoral rules are devised by the UK not the EU. It’s a legal vote that I won’t be entitled to at the end of this registration year.

      1. bisted

        …dress it up whatever way you like Dan it is cheating and you as a one-time elected representative know that more that most.

        1. Dan Boyle

          Irish citizens in the UK, unlike other EU citizens, have a right to vote in this referendum. For the period of registration I have had residence there. It’s a once off privilege I fully intend to exercise.

        2. classter

          What utter nonsense.

          It is not cheating. The UK & Ireland give each other reciprocal voting rights once resident in the respective countries. Both countries do so & it is clearly set-out in the eligibility criteria

          It is the same in UK general elections.

          There is also a similar (but slightly less all-encompassing) right for Commonwealth citizens living in the UK.

        3. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

          Pray tell how the electoral rules are “cheating”

          1. bisted

            …correct Dón…checked the electoral rules again and what Dan is intending appears to be “fraud”.

          2. Dan Boyle

            Sorry. A legal vote is never fraud. I’m voting in a jurisdiction I voted in five weeks ago.

        4. dav

          It’s within the Rules and yet you see it as cheating. Looks like somebody has an axe to grind.

          1. bisted

            …being registered to vote and having the right to vote are different things. Dan registered for a vote in Wales while he lived and worked there on a short term contract. He no longer lives at the address where he registered but remains on the register – this does not bestow a right to vote.
            An election took place in Ireland while Dan was in Wales…did he travel back to exercise his franchise or did he just cast his contrived vote in the Welsh Assembly.
            …and yes, I do have an axe to grind when it comes to disingenuous politicians…regardless of their shirt colour.

          2. bisted

            …thanks Clampers…you know your endorsment is always important to me …and it’s good to see you are no longer the only green in the village.

          3. Dan Boyle

            Bitter Bisted be better. To make your day I’m looking into voting in the US Presidential election which I’m also entitled to do.

          4. bisted

            …thanks Dan…you’re half way there with the name…Bitter and Twisted…Twitter and Bisted…a spoonerism…thought a man of your erudition would have spotted that.

          1. bisted

            …thanks dad…that seems to be a mistake I often make…for example, say a member of the Oireachtas lived nearly in sight of the building but claimed his expenses from a holiday home in West Cork…now I would call that cheating…but apparently not.

          2. Dan Boyle

            Wow that’s some stretch. You’re suggesting I’m receiving travelling expenses in availing of a legal entitlement. That’s just sad Bitwisad.

          3. Dan Boyle

            My mistake using Mr. Callelly as analogy seemed to suggest equivalence. I can see how your mind doesn’t work like that.

  2. dav

    For Me it’s a bit like a curse on BOTH their houses. I don’t like the racist elites who are driving the exit campaign, but I would like the Euro elites in the ECB/European Commission get a bloody nose.

      1. dav

        don’t worry, our civilwarshirts can’t really be classed as elites, they are more like the house slaves a’la Uncle Toms Cabin – thinking they are on an equal with the euro elites, but nothing more than dressed up slaves.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          That is truly an excellent characterisation. Basically, Sam L Jackson in Django Unchained is every FG and Lab TD….Joan and Alan anyway.

    1. Nigel

      I hate this attitude. It’s scuppered some good reforms and promising legislation, lashing out at the status quo by destroying efforts to change it. Stupid.

    2. Kieran NYC

      You’re the kind of moron who votes against anything governments put to a referendum just because you don’t like the government, regardless of the issue.

  3. classter

    One of your weaker efforts, Mr. Boyle. Rather incoherent imo.

    Not sure if it is primarily meant as an apologia or what?

  4. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

    “It’s about a mythical Britain.”

    This. And Brexit will be populated with money trees and unicorns (despite Labour apparently being the party of false promises and out of control spending).

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        It’s surprising us filthy immigrants haven’t burnt the UK to the ground by now to be honest. I;m not sure how we’ve managed to control our animal instincts.

          1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

            I;m a painter and decorator myself, do you a right nice job you know, cash in hand *nudge nudge wink wink*

          2. Tony

            I tarmacced a woman kitchen floor in Willesden once. Then we put lino on top. The “nomadic” gang I was working with knew no other way…

    1. The Real Jane

      It’s quite amazing that Boris Johnson took ages to decide what is apparently now self evident. if it was so clearly right to leave, why did he agonize so publicly for so long? Surely if it was a moral and practical imperative that the UK leave the EU, he would have been Faraging it up from the first whisper of a referendum?

      1. Dόn 'The Unstoppable Force' Pídgéόní

        He wants to be PM. It’s purely a shot at the big time for him.

  5. TheDude

    But sure its’s a proper democracy, if the government don’t get the vote they want they can just make the serfs vote again

  6. olllie

    “bitter isolationists “, yet Dan you don’t put forward a single argument for the UK to stay in the EU. Why not?

    Tell me this, during your time in government did you ever raise the fact in Europe that Germany (and France) broke the fiscal rules every year, in Germany’s case moving from too much spending in 2003 to a surplus that exceeds the 6% limit, still breaking the fiscal rules annually but no-one dares to challenge them.
    Yes Dan, some states are more equal than others, a fact ignored by the Greens during their time in power, and a fact shat continues to be ignored by the Greens in the European Parliament.

    And if I recall correctly the Irish people rejected Lisbon when the Greens were in power (and some Green TDs actively campaigned against Lisbon), yet this democratic decision was rejected by your party in government and a second referendum was called. Look where this has led us!

  7. Eoin

    I’m afraid the EU is coming apart, Brexit or not. Even the unelected leadership are admitting that they failed to consult the people in their plans and now are reaping the consequences. There is renewed danger of a Grexit again too. Why would anyone want to stay in a Europe that treats a member state like how Germany treated Greece? Greece got asset stripped for daring to vote in an anti austerity government. Plus you’ve got most of Europe pulling towards the right wing now. There are also now sanctions and penalties in place for any nation that pulls away from the EUs core. The EU is a trap. And there are still nations wandering into it.

  8. fluffybiscuits

    The council of ministers is made up of democracitcally elected leaders and members of the European parliament are voted in so you are wrong there…next

  9. some old queen

    Europe is not a world where nations need to co-operate with each other Dan, it is a group of countries being sleep walked into a federal state. Even worst than that, the people setting the agenda are mainly unelected bureaucrats with little or no respect for national democracies.

    The Yes/No is 50/50 now which stretches way beyond little England when you consider that Scotland will vote to remain. There are valid reasons why Brexit has gained such support but of course we don’t hear that side of it in the Irish Media.

    Every time a new country joins Europe, Britain gets a disproportionate wave of new foreigners and that is not even talking about the scenes at Callas from outside. The British labour market is flooded with cheap immigrants which is the main reason UKIP is growing so fast and certainly one of the reasons why Brexit may win.

    It is a gamble but Britain certainly has the economic resources to go it alone. The impact on the rest of Europe is unknown apart from Ireland, which will be in a very difficult situation from the word go.

    1. olllie

      The total cost of the European Parliament is approximately €1.756 billion euros per year according to its 2014 budget. That equates to , about €2.3 million per member of parliament.
      Each Irish MEP gets over €500,000 a year in salary and expenses.
      It’s not worth it.

  10. Dan Boyle

    Wales the biggest beneficiary of the EU within the UK is 50/50. Scotland and Northern Ireland will vote overwhelmingly to remain. This is Little Englanders writ large. Referring to other Europeans as foreigners is part of that syndrome.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Didn’t Farage say the Remain side were focusing too much on the economy?

    2. some old queen

      The word Foreigner is increasingly being used here also? That resentment is growing in Ireland too, it just hasn’t found a voice yet. But it will. Be certain of that.

      I used Word Hippo to select ‘Foreigner’ as it was just bad English to repeat the word immigrant btw, although I cannot see the difference myself. Neither can Word Hippo by the looks of it.

      1. Kieran NYC

        Foreigners are white, French (‘Frog’) types.

        Immigrants are wogs, of course.

        The opposite to ex-pats v emigrants.

  11. Mulder

    Now not really sure but ever think of not voting for a change.
    Cause the voting does not really seem to work.
    Yet keep doing it.
    Keep going around and around in a spiral down a black hole.
    Maybe try voting in Germany since it be them that runs the whole thing and make most of the important decisions.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Will always vote. It always makes some difference. I like The Germans however much they get caricatured.

  12. Sheik Yahbouti

    Sorry, Dan, you voted yes to the Lisbon and Fiscal Compact Treaties? Disgraceful – and now the Welsh are to enjoy the benefit of your wisdom.

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