Monday, July 21, 2008

Encore Sarko

This is the French Embassy Residence, in Ailesbury Road, Dublin, where today (21/7/08), President Sarkozy met NO campaigners and some of the social partners.

He stressed that he had not said the Irish should have another referendum. He is also quoted today as saying "I said that at some stage or another the Irish had to be given the opportunity to give their opinion" and "perhaps I can help Brian out of it because this is precisely the difficulty that I was up against in my own country".

These statements may seem contradictory but on closer analysis they add up to this.

A referendum is not a suitable means of ascertaining the people's wishes on such a complex issue. My predecessor, for reasons of his own, put the issue to the French people and they said NO. I, on the other hand, have obtained the consent of the French parliament. Parliament has been elected by the people. Therefore, this time round, the French people have said YES.

The implicit advice is therefore to take the matter out of the direct hands of the people and let their representatives decide.

There are, however, two particular considerations in the Irish case. At the end of the day it is up to the Supreme Court to decide if a referendum is needed on the specific content of the current, or a modified, Lisbon Treaty, and it is not clear what their view would be. Also, having said NO once, and given the practice of deciding these matters by referenda, a practice introduced at the behest of the Supreme Court originally, the Irish people might not be too happy to accept the delegation of the choice in this matter to their elected representatives.

Indeed, these representatives might be very hesitant to take on the responsibility of saying YES on behalf of a reluctant populace, if they want to stay elected next time round. It could certainly make for a very interesting next general election.

Despite all the talk, the matter was clearly not solved today, nor is it expected to be during the current French EU presidency.

Perhaps that is why the EU flag was still flying upside down in front of the Embassy residence long after Sarko had departed.

Previous posts:
Les pieds dans le plat
La Poupée qui Fait Non
Lispin Liospóin

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