We must face the fact the participation in the EU parliament is at variance with the ideals of 1916, writes John Murphy
IN 1985 Frenchman Jacques Delors, then president of the EU Commission and father of the euro-currency, made a speech in which he said that by the end of the century, 2000 and after, 70 per cent of all the laws made in Europe would come from the EU. That is now the case.
Reacting to Delors's remark at the time, Labour historian C Desmond Greaves, commented:
"Well, if Brussels will be making 70 per cent of all the laws for Ireland, Britain and the rest of the EU, it must mean that the IRA is waging its armed struggle and the unionists are being unionist, over who is going to exercise the remaining 30 per cent!"
The 1916 Easter Proclamation asserted that the Irish Republic would embody
"the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies."
It was because of those who gave their lives for that Republic that people stood in honour last Easter in Dublin's O'Connell Street as the Irish army marched past the GPO.
Before there could be a Republic that would "cherish all the children of the nation equally" there had to be one in which the Irish people had "the ownership of Ireland" and were able to exercise "unfettered control of Irish destinies".
Republicans, whether in Sinn Fein or in 'Fianna Fail - the Republican Party', say that they stand for that Republic - an independent, sovereign democracy in which the people make their laws through the representatives they elect to an independent parliament.
Such a Republic is clearly incompatible with having two-thirds of its laws made in Brussels, which is happening today. Having to obey laws made by others means being ruled by others. It is the opposite of a country being independent, sovereign and democratic.
What say do the Irish state and the Irish people actually have in making EU laws?
We have one member out of 25 on the EU Commission, the body of nominated, non-elected officials that has the monopoly of proposing all EU laws. That is 4 per cent influence. We have one minister out of 25 on the EU Council of Ministers, which makes EU laws on the basis of the Commission's proposals.
In practice, most EU laws are nowadays adopted by qualified majority vote on the Council of Ministers, where Ireland has 7 votes out of 345, that is 2 per cent of a say, and in which it may be outvoted on most matters if they are put to a vote.
The European parliament may propose amendments to draft laws of the EU Council of Ministers, but it cannot have these amendments adopted without the agreement of the Council and Commission, and it cannot itself initiate any EU law.
The Irish State has 13 members out of 732 in the European parliament, that is 2 per cent of a say, and the north has three MEPs.
Yet when the whole of Ireland was part of Britain from 1800 to 1921, it had 100 MPs out of 600 in the British parliament, of which some 70 were nationalists. That gave nationalist Ireland 12 per cent of a say at Westminster. Yet the Irish people were unhappy with majority rule from London then and aspired to a parliament of their own in an independent Irish Republic.
As for "the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland", how can Irish political leaders pretend to exercise that right when under EU law it is illegal for an Irish government to adopt any measure that would prevent the 450 million citizens of the other EU states from having the same rights of ownership and establishment in this country as Irish citizens, in relation to land-buying, fisheries, residence, employment or the conduct of any economic activity?
In addition, the Irish government is regularly fined for breaking EU laws by the EU Court of Justice - something no sovereign state anywhere in the world is subject to. Under the EU treaties it loses the right to sign trade treaties with other states, as that is done by the Brussels Commission acting for the EU as a whole. It is also legally obliged to work towards a common EU foreign and security policy and common rules in crime and justice matters.
A judgement of the EU Court of Justice last September laid down that the EU can adopt supranational criminal sanctions such as fines, imprisonment or confiscation of assets for breaches of EU law by means of majority vote. This means that Ireland and its citizens can in future be subjected to such criminal sanctions even if the Irish government had voted against them, and for matters they do not necessarily regard as crimes.
Before Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, Article 15 of the Irish constitution stated that
"the sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State is hereby vested in the Oireachtas: no other legislative authority has power to make laws for the State."
The Irish state was constitutionally sovereign then, like most states that make up the world community of states, in a way it clearly is no longer.
As a member of the euro zone Ireland has surrendered control of either the rate of interest or its currency exchange rate, which are classical economic tools of all independent governments that seek to advance their people's welfare.
One may be happy or unhappy with having most of Ireland's laws made in Brussels, but it is clearly not "the unfettered control of Irish destinies" proclaimed in Easter 1916.
Yet the leaders of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the PDs desire to give the EU more power still by ratifying the proposed EU constitution, and they still claim to be republicans in the tradition of the men and women of 1916!
Clearly the implications of being an Irish republican in today's EU need some revision and thinking over.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2006 John Murphy