Archive for June 12th, 2008

Is Bliss

There’s a short interview on the Lisbon Treaty with John Banville in El País. Remarkably for John Banville, you can read it without wondering a) if you’ve lost your place and are going back over the same thing; b) if you’ve already read something very similar on another occasion.

Banville’s view of things is very much de haut en bas, as might befit a former Aer Lingus employee turned literato. I have translated a question.

Q. Do you think that the no has to do with the dream of a better Europe, or with the fear of losing wellbeing and power.

A. It has to do with fear. The economic moment is not good, and some are taking advantage of this to shake phantasms without honesty. And it has to do, of course, with ignorance. There are many intelligent people who will vote no, but if that option wins it will be thanks to ignorance. More than eurosceptic, we’re euroignorant. The majority of people have no idea about Lisbon or many other things. In a way I think it’s absurd to ask citizens about such questions. Let the governments decide, that’s what they’re there for. After that the people will decide whether they stay in power or go home.

This exemplifies a trend I’ve seen over the last few days in commentary coming from certain quarters. It is assumed that only No voters can be motivated by ignorance. If Yes prevails, it’s because the enlightened people have been awakened from their slumbers. There is no allowance for the possibility that a fair amount of Yes voters could also be voting based on ignorance. And I think that it’s undoubtedly true that this is the case. How many people are voting Yes, for instance, solely because they think that Europe has been good to Ireland and now it’s time to do the right thing? If this is not ignorance of the particulars of the treaty, what is?


Another Era

Iris Robinson is in the news a lot these days for well publicised reasons, but Suzanne Breen had a revealing intimate portrait in the Sunday Tribune a while back to which I meant to draw attention at the time.

Iris is very much a woman’s woman, curling her legs up on a chair, mug of coffee in hand, chatting spontaneously. “Oh, Peter’s been at the blackcurrant and vanilla balls!” she laughs, pointing to a half-empty jar on the kitchen dresser. “He has a terribly sweet tooth.”

The mother of all Union Jacks – bigger than those over government buildings – flies in the Robinsons’ front garden. The opulence of their home is striking. Curtains of wine and gold silk rising into a central coronet; towering Chinese vases; hundreds of china figurines and sculptures – Marie Antoinette inches away from the Last Supper. Chandeliers hang in every room – “I think I was born in another era,” Iris says.

Each room is themed: the dining room is Oriental; a sitting room is old English; the bathroom is Italian; one bedroom is Scottish, another French. “I designed them all myself, it took years,” Iris says. A local artist painted wall frescos: a Tuscan landscape in the bathroom, an African one in the porch.

The Robinsons’ bedroom has a massive four poster Gothic bed with heart-shaped cushions. Then, there’s Iris’s lilac dressing room.

Sounds delightful. Perhaps it was this article that led to the following dig from Brian Feeney (who is so sour on occasion as to be the polar opposite of a blackcurrant and vanilla ball)

They say you can judge a state’s importance by the magnificence of its visa – the more magnificent the visa the less important the state. Let’s be thankful Norn Iron is not a state with a passport for you can be sure it would be as colourful and rococo as one of Iris Robinson’s ghastly themed bedrooms.


No, De Nuevo

A short and splendid commentary on the referendum in El Público by Iñigo Sáenz de Ugarte, which I have taken the liberty of translating -lamentably roughly- in full.

The main Irish parties are very angry with the No campaigners. They accuse them of lying, of exaggerating the powers that the Lisbon Treaty gives to the European bureaucracy and of promising the impossible. It wouldn’t be the first electoral campaign in which the main participants maintain a tortured relationship with reality. Nor is it new that political, journalistic and business elites of a EU country find out that the greater part of public opinion does not trust the europhile paradise that they sell to them with speeches infested with clichés.

The Irish aren’t the only ones who think that the European Union runs by mechanisms which are completely antidemocratic. Government officials agree constitutional texts which -they tell us- are of major importance, but we don’t always have the right to have our say on them. They explain that we can’t disconnect from Europe because the majority of the big decisions are taken in Brussels, but there isn’t a legislative chamber there worthy of the name, that is, one which could monitor an omipotent executive and an irritating bureaucracy. If it should occur to a country to submit the new text to popular consultation and the No wins, sooner or later some points get changed and the sequel is offered up, before which one is supposed to be equally enthusiastic. These officials think that citizens are simply immature pupils, because they say that people are not sufficiently ‘educated’ in selling the achievements of the European Union.

The recent decision to allow working weeks of 65 hours reveals that the more power we concede to Europe the more it will be used in the service of ideas that we do not share and of institutions that we cannot control. Who could be surprised if the Irish are considering saying no to this panorama?

In response to the last question, well I could, since scarcely a word was said about the 65 hours.

Out and About

Libération has a photo essay on the Irish referendum posters. Funny postscript:

les nuages gris annonciateurs de gros temps au second plan du cliché ne constituent en aucune manière un choix éditorial, précise le photographe.

That is, the grey clouds presaging bad weather in the background of the photo in no way constitute an editorial decision, says the photographer.

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June 2008
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