|Irish leader Enda Kenny|
“A vote is like a rifle,” according to Theodore Roosevelt. “Its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.”
The former US president’s words come to mind as our upcoming referendum is fast approaching. The reason is it seems the electorate is in danger of shooting its nose off to spite its face regardless of how they vote.
The reality is for the vast majority of us the last thing we will actually be voting on is the fiscal treaty.
While both sides of the yes and no divide have valid arguments, both are also slinging misinformation into the maelstrom.
The fact is regardless of whether you vote yes or vote no, austerity will continue. So the debate is being targeted at an emotional level. The yes cheerleaders are preying on our fear, while the no side are stoking our anger.
This vote will have major implications for the country and for future generations. Hence it needs to be made with the head rather than the heart. However, there is little chance of that come Thursday.
The truth is, this conundrum is impossible for the Irish electorate to solve.
Winston Churchill might have been embellishing things a tad when he declared, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter,” but when it comes to highly technical European treaties he has a very valid point.
Even the most enlightened economic, legal and political minds are arguing over the treaty and its potential impact. The truth of the matter is the majority of voters are just not in a position to understand the treaty.
Are you going to vote on Thursday? Have you read the treaty? The truthful answer is most likely “no.” So how can a nation go to the polls to potentially decide our children’s future without having read the precise nuts and bolts of the treaty they will be voting on?
The reason is because the language used is impenetrable to all but those versed in EU political legalese or, as it is more commonly known, Euro Babble.
The Irish Constitution is something to be treasured but its flaw is that it allows the people to decide on issues that they are not in a position to make well-judged and informed decisions on. We are swayed by emotion and by the general mood, but the hard cold facts are generally the last things we cling to.
This is why there is so much hysteria surrounding Thursday’s vote, not only in Ireland but also in Europe. It is telling that other European governments don’t throw such treaties to the public for them to be torn to shreds in a cloud of misinformation. The result is while other nations in the EU rely on sober analysis, the Irish will decide on its future relationship with Europe depending on how angry or how scared the majority of us are this coming Thursday. Regardless of the outcome, that is something we should all regret.
Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen andAssociates PR, www.prireland.com.