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'We're voting against the lack of information'


Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2009-10-01

After the "no" vote on June 12, 2008, some Dubliners say the treaty was not clearly explained.

Outside Dublin Castle, the sprawling 18th century complex that serves as the major Irish governmental centre, a resounding cheer went through the crowd Friday afternoon as radios played the official results being read out inside "the castle," as it's popularly called.


The political elitism and impregnability evoked in the word "castle" appeared to be a theme among the people gathered to hear the official results of Thursday's Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.


"This is the result of the lack of respect by the elite politicians in Brussels and Strasbourg - and in Ireland," said Robert Frayne, 56, an independent Dublin-based proof-reader standing outside the gates of the castle. "The Irish intelligence has proved that Europe is not immune to mistakes."


As radios and rigged-up cell phones played the official referendum count, the crowd broke out into a round of "Ole, ole."


"We all feel relieved, we've been heard," said Frayne. "It's a good day. It's a good day for the Irish – and for Europe as well."



Sinn Fein's Adams:  a big victory for Europe


Speaking to FRANCE 24 at Dublin Castle, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the overwhelming trend of the referendum results were "a big victory for Europe."


"It was very much a David and Goliath affair," said Adams, whose party was one of the few Irish parties to support the No vote. "The fact is the treaty can't go ahead under the current form and it's up to the government to renegotiate it to uphold the will of the people."


While all the major Irish political parties - including the ruling Fianna Fail as well as the largest opposition Fine Gael party - have backed the Yes side, the left-wing, nationalist Sinn Fein party has been assiduously maintaining that its opposition to the Lisbon Treaty was not a snub at the European Union, but an attempt to make it work better.


In his interview with FRANCE 24, Adams stressed that his party would "work positively with the Taoiseach [the Irish prime minister] and all parties, and we're ready to work with the EU to see the social Europe we need."


'Europe has been so good for Ireland'


But in other parts of the city - one that has dramatically refashioned and reconstructed itself since the Celtic Tiger first roared in the 1990s - there was a subdued sense of shock.


"Gosh, no," said a woman on Dublin's main shopping street, who preferred not to be named, when told about the results. "Wow," she added, slowly regarding the plastic flowers she was selling to help raise funds for a Dublin hospice. "I does surprise me. I'm surprised and disappointed, disappointed with the way people have voted. I guess it just wasn't explained well."


The lack of information about the Lisbon Treaty seemed to be the common explanation on the streets for the rejection. "People didn't understand it," said Anthony Scully, a retail worker while grabbing a smoke on Dublin's Grafton Street. "The politicians did a very bad job explaining it because Europe has been so good for Ireland. We're not voting because we're against Europe, we're voting against the lack of information."


'The fact that that French politician turned around and said what he said…'


Scully himself voted No because he said he was incensed that the government did not put up an informative campaign on just why a Yes vote was necessary to answer the issues raised by the No camp.


"The politicians just said, 'vote Yes because if we reject it, bad things will happen to Ireland.' But the people were saying, 'wait a second, explain to us what are these bad things,'" said Scully. "And the fact that that French politician turned around and said that if the Irish people vote No they will be the first to suffer. That's a very foolish thing to say. The Irish people don't like being bullied. Who does?"


Scully was reacting to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's controversial comments Monday that Ireland had "counted greatly on European money" and would be the first victim of a No vote.


Ireland seems to be the chief 'seconder' to Sarkozy


While the lack of information seemed to be the primary concern among Irish citizens who had voted no, concerns over a lack of say in the country's cherished military neutrality came a close second.


In the lead-up to the referendum, there was a widespread – and factually incorrect - rumor that an endorsement of the Lisbon Treaty would see Irish youth being conscripted into a "European Army."


But while Trevor McIntyre, 51, a Dublin-based construction worker, said he knew the rumors of a European military conscription were false, he was concerned on the neutrality issue.


"What terrified me personally was that Irish troops would be forced to follow (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy's little adventure in Chad and wherever," he said.


Irish troops are currently part of an EU force that has a UN mandated peacekeeping mission in the former French colony to protect refugees fleeing the crisis-torn Darfur region in neighboring Sudan.


"My problem was that the Lisbon Treaty was like a blank cheque we were supposed to sign," added McIntyre. "Sarkozy wants an EU, a Mediterranean Union and Ireland seems to be the chief seconder (sic) to Sarkozy. France takes over the EU presidency in July, so what else is coming down the tracks, you never know. That's what concerns me."


Date created : 2008-06-13