While I was over in Ireland I landed in the middle of the campaigning for a referendum on June 12, 2008. The referendum was to pass or reject The Lisbon Treaty. This hasn’t been a news story in the UK because we haven’t had to vote on it, however Ireland has a constitution and its citizens have to vote on anything that is likely to alter or come into conflict with the constitution.
It is a very convoluted document that constantly references earlier EU treaties and runs to some 400 pages. If you are really interested you can download The Lisbon Treaty here. The treaty is designed to help the EU organisation scale to accommodate new and recently joined members.
However, there are a number of Irish organisations including Libertas and political party Sinn Fein that object to the treaty. In addition, the treaty vote is being used by members of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) to protest against the World Trade Organisation talks. These organisations got themselves organised and have fought the treaty. In contrast the main political parties have been slow to get behind the treaty campaign and have been providing weak arguments for the treaty.
I got to see a live debate that pitted Fianna Fail minister Brian Lenihan, Brendan Butler of IBEC, Declan Ganley of Libertas and European parliament member Mary Lou MacDonald of Sinn Fein. You can see the interview here on the web (Real Player required). My impressions of the debate were that the yes arguments were defensive and offered little reason to vote yes, the vote no team came across as being better prepared and better at getting their arguments across. The yes campaign looks like a classic example of how not to do public relations:
- Don’t have your messaging ready
- Don’t do your research
- Don’t have rebuttals to competition arguments
- Don’t provide the audience with a compelling reason to listen to you
- Don’t get creative
- Don’t take the initative