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Behind the headline – The Treaty Con

Read more about: Europe, Foreign Affairs, Government, Irish Politics, Lisbon Treaty, Referenda     Print This Post

Libertas have an outraged press release accusing the Irish government of a systematic campaign to hide information on the Lisbon Treaty based on what they call “an email from a very senior Irish official to his British counterpart” which the Daily Mail published today. Headlined the Treaty Con, this story is picked up by a few other bloggers such as Iain Dale , the Daily Telegraph Blog and Open Europe.

Unfortunately, not for the first time Libertas are engaging in sharp practice. According to the Mail (story on politics.ie) there was no email from a very senior Irish official, rather the leaked email is a briefing from the British Embassy in Dublin to London, on a briefing they received. As such, it ain’t form the horses mouth.

But anyway, noting that the Daily Mail hasn’t published the email itself – one wonder’s why? – let’s look at what they claim, the British Embassy are claiming the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs are saying.

Essentially, it amounts to five things:

1) The decision to hold the vote this side of the summer was chosen because of fear of what President Sarkozy may say or do during the French presidency in the second half of the year;

2) There was a desire not to associate the Treaty with anything to do with the UN military operation that Ireland is participating in in Chad with France, Poland and others;

3) There was some form of agreement with the Commission to delay “bad news”;

4) The government is concerned about the WTO talks on the farming vote; and

5) The government may pull a fast one on the date, and move it forward a week which would unsettle the no campaign it is claimed.

So, based on points 1-4 the government is keen to keep stuff which has nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty away from the debate on Lisbon. Is that really that Machiavellian? After all, whatever emerges in Chad, the WTO, under the French presidency or from the Commission over the coming months will all have emerged in an EU without Lisbon. The Lisbon Treaty won’t herald in a Common Corporation Tax base, yet has that stopped some from calling for us to reject the Treaty on those grounds.

Point 5 is little more than sharp practice, which undesirable is hardly a massive matter.

The Open Europe blog has a text which it claims is the memo (not sure how they got their hands on it). Bar the revelation on the date, it doesn’t seem to be that explosive.

By the way, anyone think that the Daily Mail might have an agenda here?

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8 Responses to “Behind the headline – The Treaty Con”

  1. # Comment by Adam Apr 14th, 2008 19:04

    By the way, anyone think that the Daily Mail might have an agenda here?

    What are you implying here? The Daily Mail are known to be as pro-Europe as they are pro-Irish.

  2. # Comment by andy shaughnessy Apr 14th, 2008 22:04

    why has the governent not denied it so.
    I dont agree with things the mail says about ireland but they are right about this. I’ll believe them before id believe bertie ahern. after all hes the master of lies.
    if they’re agenda is to show up the treaty for what it is , whats wrong with that.
    people are going to vote no because they can eventually find the truth on the internet. they are no longer tied to the irish press which are inclined to be biased in favour
    andy

  3. # Comment by P O'Neill Apr 15th, 2008 01:04

    There’s an odd parallel with the imbroglio that tripped up Barack Obama over a briefing that his economic adviser held with the Canadian consulate in Chicago about his trade policy; what leaked was not anything directly from the adviser but the diplomat’s briefing about it to the Canadian government. Perhaps these briefings go round with a relatively wide circulation and are prone to being leaked. But their second-hand nature leaves them subject to deniability.

  4. # Comment by barry Apr 16th, 2008 12:04

    Today’s Irish Times has a text which is almost the same as that in the Open Europe blog, i.e. just as garbled….. Looks like a deliberate leak to me, from Foreign Affairs?? It might also have come from EU office, or from London (Daily Mail link??).

    I think that your criticism of Libertas is misplaced, there was obviously some sort of text produced by someone, probably for UK consumption. I have no brief for Libertas per se, but at least they are trying to start a debate. The govt line is to minimise debate and minimise any ‘noise’ around the referendum. They wish they didn’t have to hold one. They’ll do anything to avoid the shit of a no vote…..

  5. # Comment by Veronica Apr 17th, 2008 09:04

    Oh dear! On a general point I think we all have to be concerned at the way in which trivia are blown out of all proportion in the heat of a political moment to provide dramatic ‘conspiracy theory’ headlines or further unsettle those who are easily panicked anyway. There’s always an agenda at work in the background. US politics is riven with this sort of thing, as exemplified in the current Presidential Democratic primaries, to the extent that the candidates, their spokespersons, advisers and cheerleaders might all be well-advised to say nothing about anything to anybody for the remaining duration of the contest and instead confine themselves to a couple of statements on how they propose to deal with the substantive issues and then leave it to the electorate to make up their own minds.

    Personally, I don’t think that a routine memo drawn up by a Foreign Office official in Dublin on political thinking here on any issues of the day is something to get overly excited about or attach too much significance to. It’s part of the official’s job to submit these reports and he/she has to write something for the bosses. P. O’Neill’s point above about the ‘Duirt bean liom…’ nature of some diplomatic memos is very well-made.

    In a previous lifetime, so to speak, I had some experience of how these memos are sometimes compiled. I recall one incident where an official, whose propensity to see mountains where there were only molehills was legendary, advised me that something ‘very serious’ was being contemplated on the Irish side on an issue that was of interest to me at the time. When I contacted the person whom I assumed to be the most likely source of all the excitement and angst by now spreading out in all directions, my suspicions were confirmed. “Ah, yes of course,” my source said mischievously, making no effort to hide his own amusement. “Sure we’re always telling that guy stuff like that, just to wind him up!”

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