Wednesday, 7 March 2012
Peter and Fergus - telling it like it is?
There are two commentators in this morning's papers, both talking about the same thing: the coming referendum in the south of Ireland. In the Financial Times, Peter Sutherland says that the need for the vote springs from a clash between economic autonomy for the member states of the EU and the strengthening of the euro. "When the euro was introduced, national governments (including the UK) sought to keep the greatest possible national autonomy for economic decision-making. This hasn't worked and so the new moves aim to tighten up on economic decision-making at national level. This will be appreciated by Irish voters in the referendum and they will vote Yes". That's Peter Sutherland who is non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs, was non-executive chairman of BP, and is a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.
The other commentator is Fergus Finlay. He's writing in The Irish Examiner, and he makes the startling suggestion that people should read the EU treaty they've been asked to vote on. Now that's what I call a radical suggestion. It's also one that will fall on the deaf ears of some 85-90% of the people voting. Why? Because in the past people found these documents from the EU virtually incomprehensible. Charlie McCreevy famously said when he was Ireland representative to the EU that he hadn't read a treaty that was up for referendum voting on the grounds that no sane person would do so. I've some sympathy with Charlie on this one. There's little point in burrowing through something that's written (deliberately?) in such a way that it makes the eyes cross and the head ache. That's Fergus Finlay, by the way, who was once an adviser to the Labour Party now run by Eamon Gilmore.
I'd also commend Peter Sutherland (KCMG) for his forthrightness if not his presumption about how the people of the south will vote. He's quite right when he says that the vote is about taking power from individual states and centralising it in Europe - in short, trimming in a big way the sovereignty of the states involved. You can react to that one of two ways. You can decide that almost one hundred years ago, a group of men went into the GPO and struck a blow for what they saw as Ireland's entitlement - national sovereignty - and that to vote Yes is to betray those ideals. Or you can say that the EU has always been about uniting what were once the sovereign states of Europe (i) so that the two terrible World Wars would never be repeated; and (ii) so that Europe could act, first as a united economic force and ultimately as a united political force. And that these are commendable objectives since we live, for better or worse, in a post-nationalist era.
The choice is yours. Or, if you live north of the border, not.