More Lisbon

By | May 26, 2008

The original post is getting old (and with 90 comments too much to scroll through!) though those interested should read them as there are most enlightening.

However, I thought I’d start a fresh thread with news that the highly knowledgeable if alarmingly tall Alan Dukes got back to me with regard to a query someone made about Joe Higgins’ point that Lisbon allowed for the mandatory privatisation of public services. Dukes says:

“Joe Higgins claims that the Lisbon Treaty provisions on services mean that Member States have to open up all service markets to competition from imports (from other Member States). He claims that this means that private operators can thereby get into service markets in health, education and other public services. He goes on then to say that this means that we would be forced to allow privatisation in these sectors.
He overlooked the fact that the Treaty provides that Member States can make exceptions in the case of public services. I understand that he agreed, on a Prime Time programme with Lucinda Creighton on Thursday, that the exception is there, but he did not understand its significance.
The actual position is that each Member State can make its own decisions about whether or not to open up public service sectors to competition from other Member States. There is no compulsion involved.
Here, for example, the Government has already allowed private sector participation in the provision of health services, in the form of private hospitals and now with the co-location of private hospitals on public hospital campuses. This has been an independent position of the Irish Government.
There is already a substantial element of private participation in the education sector (e.g. Griffith College, a multiplicity of grind schools at second level, etc.). Once again, the decision to allow these was a sovereign decision of the Irish Government and the Lisbon Treaty would not affect it one way or the other.
In general, Joe Higgins misinterprets the Treaty, either inadvertently or deliberately.
It is worth noting that the Referendum Commission has confirmed
(a) that the Irish veto on tax matters (or, more accurately, the requirement of unanimity in any decisions on tax matters) remains, and
(b) the Lisbon Treaty does not prejudice Irish neutrality.
These two declarations are significant in themselves and also because they confirm that elements on the “NO” side are either misreading or misrepresenting provisions of the Treaty.”

I see The Irish Times continues to push the FF line that a defeat of the Treaty will be Fine Gael’s fault. If the “loo-las” vote No to smite the government, is that really Enda Kenny’s fault, or the bully boy, ignorant, alienating tactics of the FF leadership?

61 thoughts on “More Lisbon

  1. Bolg

    Thanks for posting this, as I instinctively felt that Higgins was wrong but didn’t have the counter-argument.

    So much time is now spent correcting these crazies, but I’ve started to wonder why the media doesn’t apply greater journalistic principles to them. Is is that they fear an accusation of censorship? Take for example that guy from Cóir, who wrote to the Times recently that the Lisbon Treaty NEWLY introduces a provision to the effect that EU law is superior to Irish law and the Constitution. This is not new, has always been the case, and is always trotted out as a shocking example of how this new treaty is stealing our sovereignty. The Times printed a letter correcting the statement, but why didn’t they refuse to publish the incorrect statement to begin with? Then, they publish Finian McGrath’s letter congratulating Labour Youth for voting to advocate a no vote; Labour Youth wrote in to say he was wrong, they voted to advocate yes. Why didn’t the Times check this? (And what is going on with FMcG? Consistently doing stupid, wrong things, like his letter to the President).

    Then, TODAY, Cóir is back in the Times banging on about the NEW provision that places EU law above Irish law. The Times have already printed a letter correcting this BS. WHAT IS GOING ON? These are questions of fact, not opinion. This Lisbon business has me tearing my hair out … what is wrong with people? Why is everyone feeling No, why are people seduced by the arguments of a bunch of total loons?

    P.S. In fairness Sarah, FG’s support is doing more harm than good. They use every Lisbon debate to make a few digs at the Government and try to cast themselves in this selfless light (e.g. that repulsive Varadkar fellow last night on the Week in Politics). I have heard more than one FG drone in the media saying that a child of theirs was voting no, or that FG voters were voting no due to annoyance with the Government. Coupled with their self-serving posters, I think they’d do a better job to shut it.

  2. Andrew

    So basically the message is that the EU doesn’t have to impose privatisation on us: we can do that quite well for ourselves. Residents of St Michael’s Estate and O’Deveney Gardens please note.
    I suppose that even if Joe Higgins is wrong – and I wouldn’t regard Alan Dukes as the most impartial of observers – at least his objections are idealogically based. Everyone else is trying to out-pragmatic each other. The big parties seem to think that ‘what’s in it for me?’ is the only question an Irish voter is capable of asking. I suppose the last election led them to that belief.

  3. Bolg

    “What’s in it for me” does seem to be the only question Irish voters are capable of asking, at least those currently veering to the No side.

    The No camp says we should seek a better “deal” – this is the best deal we’re going to get, there is no better deal.

    With national politics, we all know that not everything a Government does will please us, even if we voted for them. Why can’t people see that now? Some of the Yes camp have described Lisbon as an imperfect compromise that is as good as we will get – the No camp seize on this as some kind of damning admission, as if it is realistic to expect a 26-party treaty to be 100% what we would like to have.

  4. Gordon

    Can anybody provide examples of privatisation of a public service that has actually delivered on the promises made?

    Contrary examples – the failiure of privatisation, are very easy to cite.


  5. Tomaltach

    The stated benefits of privatisation are: that removing the government and the attendant political agendas makes for efficiency, and also it is money for the government from the sale.

    The first of these can only provide fruit if the market is or can be competitive. Certain markets are amenable to competition others are monopolistic or tend to natural monopolies. Privatisation in the latter case supplants an inefficient government monopoly with an inefficient private monopoly. Arguably Eircom is a case in point here. But still, it’s not clearcut and the market may become more competitive over time. But certainly with Aer Lingus it can be considered a success. The liberalisation had already occurred – Ryan Air had stepped in (a move which was the greatest single day for the Irish air passenger since Aer Lingus opened) The market was operating fairly well and so it made little sense for the government to remain in the market competing with Ryan Air. Other examples, ACC. And I think Irish Life. The country nor consumer hardly lost out when these were sold off.

    There was a massive ideological push for privatisation in the UK, America, and even Germany and France. In Ireland it came later and was more cautious and pragmatic, which is probably a good thing since was later on that the UK discovered that privatisation can be a success in some market sectors and a disaster in others. It needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis and the parameters probably change over time. There is no black and white answer.

    Personally I have no ideological preference here. I don’t care who provides me with broad band or with a plane ticket or for that mater with health care, as long as certain other conditions are satisfied. These conditions usually relate to standards but in the case of health care and education, they include a desire for equal access. If we could design a system where the government is not involved but these and other agreed goals could be met, then I wouldn’t object to anything being privatised. But certain realities, power structures, and influences in practice often make this impossible.

    Certainly the legacy of privatisation so far in most countries is very mixed. But that should not prevent us examining each proposal case by case.

  6. Andrew

    ‘Personally I have no ideological preference here. I don’t care who provides me with broad band or with a plane ticket or for that mater with health care, as long as certain other conditions are satisfied. These conditions usually relate to standards ..’
    I’d agree with you, Tomaltach, and I’d add ‘how they treat their employees’ to the list of concerns. Ferries, anyone?

  7. P O'Neill

    There’s a general principle here which is that any argument about the supposedly negative implications of Lisbon should be confronted with the test: Would the UK or France ever have agreed to Lisbon if the claim was true?

    UK has the tax veto. They’ll never agree to any imposition of EU-level tax policy.

    France has many many farmers. They’d never have agreed to anything that would put farming in a worse position (note who is backing the IFA in the War on Mandelson).

    Both UK and France have (in their own way) public health services that they prize. Thus the Higgins claim can’t have been right.

  8. Tomaltach

    I think the issue of the treatment of employees is a bit of a mind field. (I think the Irish Ferries dispute was a corner case, where Irish minimum wage law could be flouted because the boats were registered elsewhere etc. Though the employer behaved in an agressive confrontational manner).

    In general in Ireland the private sector treat employees pretty well. (It is notable for example that union membership as a percentage of the workforce declined rapidly over the last 10 years, and the decline was particularly rapid in the private sector).

    Of course, there are certain benefits of government employment which I would dearly love to enjoy. One being secuity. Two being a real pension. I don’t believe the private sector can ever guarantee the security that the government provides, though I have an issue with the trend in the private sector for defined contribution pensions. But these are issues to be dealt with in the broad debate about workers rights (which incidentally have improved so many fold since we joined the EU) .These employee issues aren’t in themselves sufficient to persuade me that privatisation is bad.

  9. Andrew

    Not sure, Tomaltach, that declining union membership is a symptom of employee satisfaction – more a function of anti-union policies on the part of big employers, I’d say. I agree with you, though, that employees’ rights have generally been bolstered by Europe – perhaps one reason why people like libertas and Ulick McAvaddy are agin it.

  10. Darren Prior

    I don’t know why Joe Higgins was invited to be on the panel for a Forum on Europe meeting. He’s not even an elected public rep.

  11. Andrew Lawlor

    A little off topic I know, but, after seeing Joe Higgin’s face staring down at me from lamposts all day, I got to thinking about the Laval & Partneri case in Sweden a few years ago.

    To quickly recap – Latvian building company wins a tender to build a Swedish school, brings in Latvian workers and pays them at a lower rate than the Swedish workers on he same job, Swedish unions go nucking futs and say Latvians are being exploited and Swedish workers are being undercut.

    A similar situation was discovered here when Gama, a Turkish construction firm, was building a by-pass roadway and paying its workers at Turkish rates, claiming that they were employed in Turkey and working temporarily in Ireland.

    Irish energy company, Airtricity, involved a huge contract in the US. Certainly a good number of Airtricity employees will be relocating temporarily to the US to work on this contract. My question is this. Will these Airtricity workers, or employees from any high wage economy like Ireland, be paid at Irish rates or at the lower US rates? Or does exploitation and equality only go one way?

  12. Sarah Post author

    on that – Lisbon includes in the Charter of Fundamental Rights

    “Article 28 Right of collective bargaining and action

    Workers and employers, or their respective organisations, have, in accordance with Community law and national laws and practices, the right to negotiate and conclude collective agreements at the appropriate levels and, in cases of conflicts of interest, to take collective action to defend their interests, including strike action.”

    I wonder how that will go down with the Intels and Dells?

  13. Andrew Lawlor

    Certainly, the chief exec of Intel Ireland has stated that he is in favour of Lisbon. The vast majority of business organisations – Ibec etc.- have rowed in behind the treaty.

  14. Andrew

    There is a qualitative difference between the two scenarios Andrew Lawlor outlines, since the inevitable effect of the Swedish and Gama cases would be to drive down wages in the host countries, whereas Airtricity employees being paid in America at Irish rates would not have a similar effect. In short, importing cheap labour into higher wage economies damages the environment for indigenous workers, whereas importing high-paid workers into low-wage economies doesn’t.

  15. Andrew Lawlor

    I accept the basis of your point Andrew, but would Airtricity employees have a case if their employers decided to pay them at lower US rates? Could an employer not claim to be paying the going rate in that country as demanded by those who opposed Gama and Laval?

  16. Electron

    “In short, importing cheap labour into higher wage economies damages the environment for indigenous workers, whereas importing high-paid workers into low-wage economies doesn’t.”
    Where’s the logic in the latter? It’s a recipe for bankruptcy.

  17. Crocodile

    I don’t think much of that’s going to happen. Isn’t Andrew Lawlor asking why shouldn’t Airtricity pay their employees lower rates while working in America. The other Andrew (this gets confusing) is just pointing out that employers will probably pay as little as they can get away with in any market: this results in injustice when the flow is from low to high.

  18. Dan Sullivan

    I’ve posted on the topic already but it bears repeatind. I’ve read some attempts to shift the blame for failure in my time but rarely so far in advance of the end of the contest. Noel Whelan’s column, Irish Times May 24th, followed so closely by the comments from Brian Cowen that the onus for the success of the Lisbon Treaty was on Fine Gael rather than the government of the day has to take the proverbial biscuit.

    Let us recall that the main government party spent much of the time it could have spent addressing concerns about the Treaty conducting a swansong for its outgoing leader, while telling anyone who had concerns that they were lulus who were only interested in making a holy show of us by voting no and just stopped short of sending them to bed without their supper.

    If the government were serious from the outset about meeting head on the genuine qualms that many people had expressed they would have selected someone other than a man who would cause Americans to harbour doubts about the loveliness of their mothers and the tastiness of apple pie. The smug condescension from the junior minister with special responsibility for European Affairs can have convinced few floaters to choose the ‘Yes’ side.

    In terms the Taoiseach might be more familiar with, his comments are like those of a player who never turns up for training, and upon coming back from suspension for ungentlemanly conduct enters onto the field of play at the county final with ten minutes left. He then demands rather then asks that all those who have been there from the start of the championship must dig deep, give 110% and sweat blood all the while he has yet to kick a ball in anger. With ‘encouragement’ to the Yes side like this, does the No side require any more help?

  19. betty

    Hello, Dan , The leading article in the Irish Times 17 May praised Cowan’s support for Lisbon and berated Kenny for not clearly indicating which side he was on.What is going on????????

  20. Andrew Lawlor

    I really must take issue with your point of view. Those who would vote no were referred to as loolas – not lulus. Lulu is as Scottish singer familiar to those of a certain vintage.

  21. Sarah Post author

    Dan is right on the nail.

    FF have been messing for months over Bertie while Enda was on the road.

    I can’t believe the Irish Times is falling for this bullshit.

  22. City Dweller

    FF always blame FG for The Treaty. Isn’t that their only selling point?

  23. The Crewser

    Enda on the road indeed. Enda has been on the road to nowhere for years.

  24. Sarah Post author

    Oooh I don’t know about that. Before Cowen was appointed I did a piece on the Last Word about how he might perform. Generally I am completely wrong about my political predictions but I think maybe this time I’ll be right. Cowen is easily riled and its not a pretty sight. I think all Kenny has to do is keep needling him. The ignorant, temper losing, cursing, threatening style to which Cowen so easily resorts is not attractive. It has its uses, as it did in the election, but he’s Taoiseach now, and despite the hilarity with which the “fuckers” incident was greeted, I think that joke will wear thin. Keep at it Enda. The more Cowen loses it, the less in control he seems. I think I’m going to rather enjoy the next few months.
    As for this nonsensical spin about FG and Lisbon they had better go on full attack. Their press office/management ( or do I mean non-management) has been their weak link for 20 years. Where is their PJ? Their Mandy?

  25. Dan Sullivan

    Andrew, I’m almost 100% sure I’m correct in that Bertie referred to people as lulus not Loolas. It was another one of his smokes and daggers moments. And I’m also of vintage to be aware of Lulu.

  26. Sarah Post author

    Sorry Dan, it was loo-las

    ” Campaigners against the Lisbon Treaty were described by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last night as “loo-las of every kind and shape” who advocated “loony-left” policies.

    Launching in Dublin the 2008 Bruce Shaw Handbook, a guide to the construction and property industry, Mr Ahern departed from his script to say that, between now and the referendum date, “there will be a whole lot of loo-las of every kind and shape drifting around this country following the same nonsense that they followed since 1972”.

    Criticising Sinn Féin’s role in opposing the treaty, he said “all sensible political parties” were voting Yes but that “the loony left, led by a number of parties including Sinn Féin and Marxist-Leninist groups and the Socialist Party”, were all on the No side.”


    However, its a small point. The issue is that FF were too busy insulting everyone and waving white handkerchiefs at Bertie to notice the rising No vote. While FG were on the road trying to persuade their supporters that as insufferable and as nauseating as it might be to see FF gloat (and possibly end up with Bertie as EU president) the right thing to do was Vote Yes.

  27. Andrew Lawlor

    Victory is sweet. I think I shall unwrap a cuban and pour myself a snifter of cognac. What’s rare is wonderful!

  28. City Dweller

    Does easily riled mean a face like a bulldog licking piss of a nettle?

  29. Crocodile

    ‘My bad. Apologies’
    Serious question: where did this expression come from? It appeared in Doonesbury a couple of weeks ago and was new to everyone in my household. I’ve heard it about five times since and suppose it means mea culpa. Is it very Victorian of me to ask?

  30. Crocodile

    Thanks, Sarah. Funny how these phrases are around for a while and then suddenly seem to be everywhere. How did politicians ever do without ‘going forward’ and ‘the reality is’. The latter now features 20 times in every ‘Questions & Answers’.

  31. City Dweller

    Politicians are expert at not answering questions.

    They spout crap about going forward like they just found an extra tenner under the bed and the country was just founded yesterday.

  32. Bolg

    Libertas has me in regular fits of rage.

    In today’s Irish Times: “”The charter specifically allows the detention of children for educational supervision. That is a fact,” [Caroline Simons, of Libertas] said. Mr Gilmore should read the text of the charter, she added. She cited the explanation of Article 6 of the charter that outlines the limitations to the right to liberty.”

    I just read Article 6: “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.” Eh, that’s it.

    What “explanation” is she talking about? Libertas’ spin of this one sentence? An ECtHR decision? I’d like to know, because she’s suggesting it’s in the Charter. Like they suggest all sorts of bogeymen are in the Treaty.

  33. Jer

    Interesting to see that politicians do actually respond to queries like this. I always assumed that they just dodged the question. My head still says vote not though.

  34. The Crewser

    Is it any wonder that the electorate have cast FG into the “also ran” category so often (something that is not likely to change any time soon) when they congatulate one another over having achieved nothing as Sarah and Andrew have done here.

  35. Electron

    “Cowen is easily riled and its not a pretty sight. I think all Kenny has to do is keep needling him. The ignorant, temper losing, cursing, threatening style to which Cowen so easily resorts is not attractive.”

    Sarah, my predictions – I’m always on the money when it comes to people.

    “Electron said,
    04.02.08 at 8:01 pm
    I hope that Cowen doesn’t win the leadership – he’s not the right material for leader of a country. He has an overly abrasive and dismissive manner. The opposition will have a field day drawing him out and exposing that bullying personality.”

  36. Electron

    Crewser, he may be a good and expensive floor cleaner, but what about his real job as leader of the country. It looks as though he hasn’t got the necessary imagination and courage – he’s only all fluster and bluster.

  37. The Crewser

    Typical begrudgery from the Gaelers. Brian showed in the run up to the General Election what he was made of. He was one of those who exposed Kenny’s second hand contract for what it was.Little wonder then that FG apologists refuse to appreciate the man’s ability. Not much courage and imagination to be seen on the opposition benches these days.

  38. Electron

    Crewser, He’ll still be shouting Loyalty, Loyalty as his ship goes down – very imaginative

  39. Crocodile

    If you have time, Crewser, please explain again about this Devitt person. I missed it first time round. In particular, please explain why whatever she did counterbalances the entire cornucopia of sleaze being slowly exposed to light in the tribunals and elsewhere. I take it that you’re suggesting that FG supporters can’t criticise FF when their own party dealt inadequately with Devitt, but what of those of us who have no allegiance to FG or any other party? Why are we disqualified from criticising corruption, of whatever party? Or have I missed something?

  40. Electron

    Crewser, 20,000 is nothing in comparison to Bertie’s amounts – if that was all that was involved nobody would give a damn, but multiples of 10 and possibly 20 times, is a totally different matter.
    When he did he did it, he in style like Charlie, Liam and Ray and then there’s the huge cost of trying to get them to admit to it. Bertie and the boys would consider 20,000 to be Mickey Mouse money – they’d be insulted.

  41. The Crewser

    Nice way of dodging around the issue of Kenny’s integrity Electron but not good enough. Kenny and Varadakar are the ones who have placed themselves on the holier than thou platform. Clearly you are in full agreement with Ms Devitt’s acceptance of the money and Kenny’s reaction or rather lack of reaction to it.

  42. Sarah Post author

    So Anne Devitt, a county councillor went into the Tribunal and told the truth (as unpalatable and unethical as it may have been). As opposed to Bertie “I never dealt in Sterling” Ahern telling a heap of porkies to the Tribunal and the people.

    Two wrongs…….?

  43. crocodile

    But if you don’t set yourself up as a holier-than-thou politician, Crewser, just as someone who thinks we don’t deserve to be lied to by our politicians, how do Devitt’s actions invalidate any criticism of FF’s?

  44. The Crewser

    Crocodile, just like Electron and Sarah your answer clearly indicates that you are quite happy with Ms Devitt accepting the 20 Grand. You also are quite happy with Enda Kenny preaching about probity and honesty in politics but actually doing something entirely different. If you are not an FG member and voter you certainly are quite an aplogist for them. Not a surprise really.

  45. Sarah Post author

    If Devitt took money I condemn that. Bertie has not left the stage. He still has to answer for the lies he told and the money he owes the Rev. He has to answer to the Tribunal, the Rev and the people. Nothing you say changes that.

  46. The Crewser

    You condemn it but what is your attitude to Mr Kenny’s failure to deal with it. That is what I would most like to know. Other contributors to this site have tip toed around the issue. Everyone has to answer to the Tribunal but if Enda Kenny and FG want to preach probity and integrity they must be seen to practice it also.

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