Thursday, August 27, 2009

More brilliant arguments from the Yes side

Sometimes I think I should offer a cash prize to the first person who can offer a single good reason for voting Yes on 2 October. Yesterday we had Fionnan Sheahan trot out the tired old mantra of our vote really being about whether or not we want to be in Europe, not about whether or not we accept a bad treaty. In today's Irish Times, IFA president Padraig Walshe gives three reasons why he is voting yes - none of which have anything to do with the Treaty at all.

"Mr Walshe said one of the reasons for voting Yes was that European membership has given Ireland access to an unrestricted market of over 500 million consumers. "As a food exporter, as a food island .... access to that market is crucial for us."

R-r-right. The common market has been in place for many years now, and how we vote on Lisbon is not going to change our access to it one way or the other. But he continues:

"Also, membership of the euro has kept interest rates low over the past few years, and it has benefited Irish agriculture."

Okaaayyy - but the referendum is not about the euro, it's about the Lisbon Treaty. When is Mr Walshe going to get around to talking about that? Well, never, apparently:

"The future of the Common Agricultural Policy is up for renegotiation in the next couple of years, and we feel it is much more important for us to be involved in the heart of those negotiations, that we can influence what is likely to happen going forward rather than being on the periphery as we might be if we were to vote No."

Nope, nothing about the content of the Treaty here either - just the usual "the other member states will give us the cold shoulder if we say no" speculation. In not one of Mr Walshe's three reasons for voting Yes is a single article or provision of the Lisbon Treaty invoked.

Incidentally, his reasoning on the last point is absolutely fallacious. Involved in the heart of CAP negotiations? What, you mean the negotiations that allow French farmers to receive 25 % of CAP funds, despite constituting less than 10% of the farmers in the EU? And that's despite the fact that France said no to the EU Constitution! Also, Mr Walshe should be aware that Lisbon will slash Ireland's voting weight on the Council of Ministers - not exactly an outcome that will allow us to "influence what is likely to happen."

So I'm still waiting for an argument from the Yes camp that does not consist of either vague speculations about the future or the nostalgic "but Europe has done so much for us!" palaver. And I suspect I'll be waiting for some time ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Who are the Scaremongers?

Well, exams have been sat (and, let us hope, passed) and I am now able to give more time to the campaign against the Lisbon Treaty. From now until 2 October, this blog will concern itself with that campaign and not so much with CSP issues.

And the campaign needs all the help it can get. On opening the Irish Independent this morning, I was greeted by the following platitude by Fionnan Sheahan:

"More than a vote on the Lisbon Treaty itself, it is a vote on Ireland's relationship with the Union".

This is utterly typical of the Euro-fanatics. They always go from the specific to the general in their arguments. Point out some grave flaw in an EU Treaty (like, you know, the slashing of Ireland's voting weight in the Council, the creation of a common European policy in areas like immigration and defence, the abolition of our right to appoint our own Commissioner) and they will reply with an impatient wave of the hand. "But you must look at the big picture" they insist. "This isn't about the Treaty, it's about whether or not we want to stay in Europe!"

Listen. We're IN Europe. We were evangelizing Europe some 1,400 years before the EU was ever dreamt of. But since we're talking about the EU: we're in that too. Voting No to Lisbon will not remove us from the EU. It will not remove us from the Common Market. It will not restrict our freedom of movement within the Union. End of story.

What infuriates me most about statements like Sheahan's above is that the Yes side are generally the ones who accuse the No side of "scaremongering", when the reality is the exact opposite. In fact, the Yes side's arguments consist almost entirely of scaremongering: loss of foreign investment, loss of jobs, some vague, unspecified retribution from other EU countries.

Recently a Yes-supporting colleague told me that the No side's arguments were also grounded in prophecies of doom. That may be true, but there is one major difference between us and the Yessers: We ground our arguments in the text of the Treaty, they do not. We know that Lisbon will result in less democracy, more militarisation, ECJ control over our human rights because the Treaty itself says that it will. The Yes side have no authority for their apocalyptic claims. That needs to be pointed out to people at every opportunity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

1916 Commemoration tomorrow

The Christian Solidarity Party will hold its Commemoration of the 1916 Rising tomorrow, Saturday 18 April in the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin, at 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend!

The parallels between our own day and 1916 are too obvious to need pointing out by me. Now, as then, Irish sovereignty is being restricted; now, as then, Catholics suffer discrimination and Catholic values are trampled underfoot. The northern part of our island is still under foreign rule, and the southern part is ruled by a political class which laughingly tramples on the ideals of 1916 while selling more and more of our sovereignty away to Brussels. It's time to take a stand against this, and that's why we are meeting at the Garden of Remembrance tomorrow. Join us there!

Monday, April 13, 2009

I can't agree with Thought and Action on this

As most of you will know by know, last Thursday Prof Len Doyle, a proponent of euthanasia, was to give a lecture at UCC. The lecture was cancelled after protests from outside and inside the lecture hall.

The Thought and Action blog is pleased about this. "Euthanasia like abortion is not a matter for debate," it proclaims. But I can't help looking back on my own undergraduate days, and remember how furious I was whenever the leftists succeeded in getting a debate or lecture cancelled because a speaker was unacceptable to them. A debate involving the historian David Irving was cancelled after a naked threat of violence by the Socialist W**kers Student Society. When Joerg Haider attended a debate, leftists stood outside the window screaming and banging drums for two hours. Justin Barret was practically assaulted during a debate on immigration.

On each of these occasions, I was engraged at the arrogance of the protestors. Not just because of their contempt for Irving's or Haider's right to freedom of speech, but also because of their contempt for my freedom. Who the hell gave them the right to dictate who I could and could not go to hear on campus? And moreover - what were they afraid of? Why couldn't they just meet their opponents in rational and open argument? Could it be, perhaps, that they were afraid their opponents might just have the better arguments?

Imagine the situation: you're a student, on campus one evening. It's spring, exams are near, and you've had a long day. Hoping to unwind, you attend a debate being hosted by one of the societies on a topical issue, and featuring a controversial speaker. Maybe you agree with the speaker, more likely you don't, but you want to hear what he has to say anyway. You go inside the debating chamber. It's crowded, hot and stuffy. You think longingly of the pub, but reckon that since you're here now you might as well stay. Then, just as the debate begins, someone stands up and starts shouting. A few more join in. Pandemonium, scuffling, and then it is announced that the debate is being cancelled because a minority refuse to let it take place peacefully. You get up, trudge out of the hall wearily and go home. My question is: how are you going to feel towards the protestors? Are you going to think "My goodness, what fine fellows they were to prevent the debate from happening and make me waste my evening. They're definitely getting my vote at the next election!" Or will your thoughts be rather less friendly?

That, I am convinced, is one reason why the Socialist W**kers Party has never had any electoral success, despite its energetic campaigns, strong presence on university campuses and popular stances on some issues. People see its totalitarian undercurrent, and so hold back from giving it their support. Why would you vote for a party that doesn't trust you to make up your own mind about what debates to attend at university?

Preventing a debate or lecture by violent means is counter-productive. It turns every person in the room who is not already sold to your cause against you. It makes people wonder what you are afraid of. It makes them look up the censored speaker on the internet. Far more Irish people know the name Len Doyle now than would have known it if Thursday's disruption had not happened. Far more people have surely visited his website, if he has one. Many of these could well end up buying into what he has to say. Protesting against euthanasia is one thing. Trampling on people's rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembley is quite another.

Also: if we want to win ordinary people over, we will need arguments. If our colleagues, friends, children ask us why we are against euthanasia, it will not do us much good to shout "Euthanasia is not a matter for debate!" and storm off. We will need arguments, and by disrupting Prof Doyle's lecture, the protestors denied many people the opportunity to hear those arguments, or ensured that they will be hostile if they do hear them.

Let me be clear. I am a conservative. I do not believe that there is an unconditional right to say whatever we want. In an ideal world, promoting evil causes like euthanasia should be forbidden. But we do not live in that ideal world. We live in a democracy, where arguments are won and lost by debate and not by intimidation. And this democracy is full of people who would be happy to censor traditional Catholics. So we should be very, very careful about stooping to our enemies' level. If we claim the right to freedom of speech for ourselves, we should offer it to them too.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The CSP's budget proposals

The things I do for the Latin Mass!

It's well-known that traditional Catholics often have to go to great lengths to get to a traditional Latin Mass on Sundays. When I lived in Bayreuth, the nearest TLM was in Bamberg, 30 miles away (thanks to Summorum Pontificum, that's no longer the case). The train journey there and back cost €19 and took up a good chunk of my Sunday. I know trads who make really heroic sacrifices to get to a TLM.

But even when a TLM is in your own city, getting there can sometimes be a costly business. So it was with me yesterday. I had got up a bit late, as I had a ferocious hangover (some readers of this blog know why!). I left the house and struggled to the Luas stop, just in time to see the tram leaving. The next one wouldn't come for 10 minutes. That would get me in around the time of the Gospel - a bit too late for comfort. So I took a taxi.

The taxi cost €14, but since I had spent - well, okay, wasted - a lot more than that on booze,taxis and food the night before, it didn't seem like such a huge amount. I made it to Mass on time, and afterwards had a nice cup of tea with friends. Then it was on to the Christian Solidarity Party office for an afternoon meeting, and then I had to head home - relatives were coming over.

I have no explanation for what happened next. Maybe I'm losing it, or maybe I was just too tired after my long night. Basically: as I plodded towards the Luas, I assumed I had a return ticket in my pocket. I normally buy a return ticket every day when I'm going into town. I completely forgot that I had taken a taxi into town and so had no return ticket. You can see where this is going.

I got on the Luas, sat down, it started to roll. And as we pulled in to the Harcourt Street stop, I saw a group of orange-clad inspectors waiting to get on. A young mother beside me said to her toddler son "Oh, look - inspectors! Better get your ticket ready!" I reached into my breast pocket and found ... no ticket. What was this? Where had my ticket gone? I thought about it for a second, and then remembered ... of course. The taxi. I had no ticket.

I leapt out of my seat just before the doors opened. There was a golden moment when they did open, just before the inspectors got on. At that moment I could have bolted. I was respectably dressed in a suit and tie, no one would have suspected that I was fleeing the inspectors. But some perverse instinct, or fear of dishonour, made me stay where I was. The inspector got on, and mustering as much dignity as I could, I said to him: "I'm sorry, I've no ticket. I thought I had a return ticket, but actually I haven't."

With an exceedingly bored air, he got out his notebook, took my details and handed me a €45 fine. "Mammy, what's that man doing?" inquired the toddler.

"He's just taking notes, pet" came the reply.

I stayed on the tram until it reached my stop, and trudged up the hill towards my house. Making the 10:30 Mass had proved more expensive than usual. In future I'll try to go to bed earlier on Saturdays - or at any rate get up earlier.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Continental journalists should get their geography right

Radio France Internationale reports on the peace vigils taking place in the north. The reporter seems to think that the Real IRA (which in French bears the oddly attractive name l'IRA-Véritable) and the Continuity IRA are the same thing. He interviews a "young Catholic" woman who says she's on the march because she's part of "the new Northern Ireland." Well, if thats what she wants to call the six counties ... But the biggest howler lies in the name of the country that all of this is supposedly taking place in. According to the article, it's le Royaume-Uni.

Looks like the movement for Irish unity still has quite a bit of work to do in hearts and minds. Let's be at the forefront of it.

In other news, the site reports that in Iraq, Tariq Aziz has been sentenced to 15 years in prison along with "Chemical Ali" - "meme si jamais aucun témoignage n'a pu établir sa responsabilité directe dans ces crimes." The former foreign minister is, as you may know, a Catholic. How that fact ties in with the neocon myth that the invasion of Iraq was part of some glorious campaign against militant Islam is unclear. Especially since Saudi Arabia, which ruthlessly persecutes Christians and which I once heard a pious Iranian student describe as "a hell country", remains a cosseted US ally.