[Many thanks to Ruth Dudley Edwards, who’ll be covering the Irish referendum for Coffee House over the next few days. Here’s her first post – Pete Hoskin]
I haven’t seen so many confusing posters since Beirut in the early 1990s. They are layered on every lamppost in Dublin. The Yes lobby’s contributions are pious and vacuous and unwisely have photographs of politicians – an unpopular group at the moment. ‘Europe. Let’s be at the heart of it’ urges the Fine Gael offering, which features the EPP-ED cute little logo of stars inside a heart. ‘Good for Ireland Good for Europe’ say Fianna Fail. ‘Vote Yes for jobs, the economy and Ireland’s future’ beg the Irish Business and Employers Federation.
The No stuff is much more fun, emanating as it does from innumerable mostly obscure groups many of which hate each other: Sinn Fein (‘People died for your freedom. Don’t throw it away’) and the capitalist-backed Libertas (‘Keep Ireland strong in Europe. Vote No) are on non-speaks. The messages are pitched at a wide range of constituencies: ‘Lisbon It’ll cost you’; ‘Follow the French and Dutch. Vote No’, and my favourite, which features three monkeys: ‘The new EU – won’t see you, won’t hear you, won’t speak to you’. An unnamed taxpayer has funded newspaper advertisements denouncing the treaty as ‘God-excluding foolish Freemason determined’
After a period of mutual recrimination about who was working hardest on the Yes campaign, the three uncharismatic leaders of the biggest parties appeared together to plead with the Irish voters not to be making a holy God’s show of themselves by voting No. European politicians have counter-productively threatened dire consequences if the vote is lost. The passion and energy are mostly on the No side – although I met a Yes enthusiast last night who alleged furiously that Libertas were funded by American neo-cons.
It’s largely a class thing. The posh are pro and those in fear of bad times are anti. If – as looks likely – it’s a No, it’ll be the politicians wot lost it.