Four weeks remain before Galway must again go to the polls and decide to accept or reject the Lisbon Treaty. ‘No’ campaigners are already out canvassing the city while the ‘Yes’ side knows it needs to sell a positive message against the backdrop of economic recession.
The second Lisbon Treaty referendum will be held on Friday October 2 and already the No side is out of the traps and getting its message across. The Yes side has been slower to emerge, but it has learned the mistakes of the past and is determined not to repeat them.
This time around the Yes side is much better prepared but realises it has to deliver a more cohesive and positive message if it is to win votes on polling day.
“The Yes campaign is more organised this time around and there is more information out there about Lisbon,” Labour councillor Niall McNelis told the Galway Advertiser. “Too much of the last Lisbon campaign was taken up by going after Declan Ganley personally. This time we are trying to sell the Treaty and pointing out the reasons why we should vote Yes.”
Cllr McNelis has been one of the leading pro-EU voices in Galway city over the past number of years but he is adamant that the Lisbon campaign “is too serious to be left to the politicians alone”.
“I believe a lot of people don’t care about Lisbon,” he said. “They are worried about the economic situation but with the McCarthy report, NAMA, and the upcoming Budget, our fear is that voters may use the referendum as a stick to beat the Government with.”
As such, he said, business organisations, individuals, and companies, and Prof Jim Browne of NUI, Galway coming out in support of Lisbon is very important. Cllr McNelis also said with the business community coming on board, it will emphasise to voters the importance of a Yes vote in helping Ireland to recover economically.
“A Yes vote is important now more than ever as Ireland is a different country now than it was 12 months ago,” he said. “As such it is important that we remain at the heart of Europe, show we are true Europeans, and remember that we have always punched well above our weight in the EU.”
The No side is confident it can again pull off a victory on polling day next month and Niall Farrell of the GalwayNo2Lisbon campaign says they are “gung-ho for this”.
“We will be out every night of the week in the rain until polling day,” he told the Galway Advertiser.
The No side is confident and organised. The GalwayNo2Lisbon group has been canvassing the city solidly over the past four weeks while CÓIR has already erected numerous posters throughout the city. While the Yes side is made up largely of the establishment parties, businesses, and academia, the No campaign is more diverse, ranging from far left groups to conservative Christians.
However Mr Farrell points out that each group on the No side is separate and none is linked to another.
“The right wing and anti-abortion campaigners are separate from us,” he said. “GalwayNo2Lisbon contains anti-war campaigners, Labour members, and even some Fianna Fáil.”
However Mr Farrell points out that regardless of whether a person is on the Yes or No side, is right wing or left wing, the fact that a treaty which was rejected by the voters last year now must be voted on again, raises serious questions about the nature of democracy and choice in the EU.
“The percentage that won the last Lisbon Treaty Referendum was a larger percentage than that which elected Barack Obama, but you didn’t have John McCain looking for a recount,” said Mr Farrell. “Under Lisbon, Germany will have 20 times more voting rights than Ireland will. There is a democratic defect in the EU and whether you are right or left, these are important questions for anyone who believes in democracy.”