No camp gaining ground

by David Granville

IN JUST five days' time the people of Ireland will have had their say, for a second time, on the Lisbon constitutional treaty.

Despite the enormous odds stacked against securing a repeat of last year's No vote - all of the mainstream Irish political parties, including the Greens and the Irish Labour Party, and big business interests such as Ryan Air are all promoting a Yes vote - there are distinct signs that the No side is gaining support as the 2 Octber approaches.

Neither money nor media coverage has been an obstacle for the Yes camp, which is outstripping the No side in terms of both coverage and spending power by somewhere in the region of a factor of ten to one.

Aside from the money put in by the main political parties - only Sinn Fein and the Socialist Party on the No side are represented in either the Dail or the European parliament - Ryan Air chief Michael O'Leary has thrown his wallet into the ring, including an offer to spend 500,000 euro on free air tickets for anyone who is willing to come to Ireland in the last week of the campaign to help lobby for a Yes vote.

IT giant Intel is spending a further 200,000 euro supporting the Yes campaign, while at least one pro-EU lobbyist planning to raise 500,000 euro for advertisements.

IBEC, roughly the Irish equivalent of the CBI, bringing together a range of employer and professional organisations, has also thrown its weight behind the Yes campaign and has been circulating a draft letter supporting a Yes vote that it wants sent out to all employees.

Disappointingly, with the exception of Unite and the electricians' union the TEEU, the Irish trade union movement has followed Labour into the Yes camp.

On a recent visit to Ireland, European commission president Jose Manuel Barroso took the opportunity put his EU oar in on behalf of the Yes side, warning Irish people of the dire financial consequences they could face if they decide to vote No a second time.

Barroso also unashamedly used his visit to offer a token bribe to former Dell computer workers who had lost their jobs when the IT giant decided to shift it's factory from Limerick to Poland. It's difficult to say to what extent such blatant interference in the Irish democratic process will have.

Former MEP Patricia McKenna, chairperson of the People's Movement, the main focus for progressive and left-wing opposition to the Lisbon treaty, was forthright in her condemnation, accusing the EU commission of "gross and unlawful interference" in the Irish referendum debate.

The People's Movement has also called for an investigation into a letter being circulated by EU officials in Brussels offering free flights to Ireland to canvas for a Yes vote.

The Irish businessman Declan Ganley, whose large personal wealth was a significant factor in successfully promoting the last No campaign, only rejoined the battle for a No vote a few weeks ago, having originally promised to stay out of a second referendum fight. It was the biased onslaught of the pro-EU campaign, especially in the Irish media, which helped ton change his mind.

Exactly how much his late entry, and the absence of the kind of funds he was able to pump in last time, will count for on 2 October remains to be seen.

Yet, despite the enormous odds against another No vote, the referendum outcome it's far from clear cut and all polls suggest that there are still a large number of undecided voters.

While most opinion polls give the Yes side a comfortable lead, even the most rabid of pro-treaty campaigners recognise that the No camp is making up significant ground as the poll date approaches.

No campaigners will also be heartened by last weekend's Gael Poll, which showed substantial lead for the No campaign. Since publishing its findings, the Yes camp has been doing its best to discredit both the poll and the organisation which conducted it. Gael Poll. Labelling it "biased" and even "voodoo" - as if other polling organisations are somehow politically neutral - particular emphasis has been placed on its links with right-wing Catholic elements.

Under the circumstances, whether these are true or not is barely relevant. If it' is biased and wrong we'll find out soon enough. However, what's clear is that the poll, and the hardening of support for a No vote scares the living bejeezus out the arch EU federalists and the Yes camp in general.

Gael Poll was the sole polling organisation to accurately predict a win for the No camp at the time of the first Lisbon referendum. When all other polling organisations were predicting a comfortable win for the Yes side, Gael Poll alone predicted a No vote. Furthermore it came within half a percentage point of the actual result.

Whatever the outcome, we wish the Irish people well. Our future, and the future of all of us who live within the EU member states is in their hands. But, unlike Mr Barroso and his EU cronies, it's not our business to tell the Irish people how they should vote. That is a matter for them and them alone.

However, as the oldest campaigning organisation of the Irish in Britain and their British friends, the Connolly Association, stated in a letter delivered last week to the Irish Ambassador in London: to those who vote Yes, they should know that they do so with the full blessing of the British government, a government which has denied its own people a vote on this important matter.

To those who vote No, they will do so with the overwhelming support of the British people.

We leave it up to the Irish themselves to decide whose support they feel is more worth while.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2009-09-28 17:21:25.
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