'Hope' is Scarce in Ireland, But New Lisbon Treaty May Help Some

As Ireland sinks deeper into the agonies of depression, Fianna Fail government leaders are working desperately to correct the problems caused by, "the most overheated of all advanced economies," according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report issued in late June.

The IMF report, along with comments made on June 24 by the Paris-based think tank, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), show clearly how serious conditions in Ireland look to become over the next two to three years: The IMF forecasts that by next year unemployment in Ireland will be in excess of 15 percent; OECD sees the nation's gross domestic product decreasing by 14 percent.

The lives of many Irish children, most Irish families, and all Irish college graduates, so hopeful just two years ago, will be tragically affected by these developments. Emigration to escape the disaster will be more difficult as countries all over the world, also suffering from economic difficulties, will be far less welcoming.

In May 2008, in the midst of the deteriorating economy, the Irish people, especially those in rural areas, overwhelmingly voted against participating in the European Union's "Lisbon Treaty" – the only European member country to do so – thereby preventing its enactment since all members must ratify new treaties before they become part of the law. In effect, the Irish people voted to turn their backs on the EU, which had supported their economic resurgence for more than twenty years.

European leaders were shocked, as were many complacent Irish leaders. Anger rose at the fact of this tiny country thwarting what European leaders thought was best for the Union as a whole.

Many countries asked Ireland to try again, to ask the Irish people to re-think their vote. Taoiseach Brian Cowen, though beleaguered by the economic meltdown, recommended caution lest Irish voters reject the treaty again and set about to educate doubters of the benefits of staying in the EU.

Just a little over a year later, it appears the effort has been successful and a new vote will be held in October, probably on the 2d. This time the full force of all political parties except Sinn Fein will be working hard to obtain a positive vote. Cowen is strongly advocating a "yes" vote to give Ireland a better chance of coming out of the recession.

According to independent polls reported in the Irish Times, the atmosphere in 2009 is a far cry from what it was last year and it appears Irish voters will ratify the treaty. Sensing a successful vote, Fine Gael's opposition leader Enda Kenny, in a classic "me first" political move, declared he should be the one to lead the campaign.

But if the "yes" votes prevail, the credit will be Brian Cowen's and his Fianna Fail ministers, who prevailed upon European leadership to give Ireland ironclad legal guarantees that the country's sovereignty will not be weakened especially with regard to taxation, neutrality, and abortion. The guarantees will be filed in the UN as part of a paragraph in the basic EU agreement permitting such agreements.

Support for an approval vote on the Lisbon Treaty is well organized this time and the opposition is in some disarray after losing many leaders in recent elections. High profile figures such as Seamus Heaney,U2's the Edge, and the athlete Robbie Keane have been recruited and will make vigorous statements.

No one is claiming that the ratification will solve all economic problems, all of Europe will look more favorably upon Ireland if the vote is a "Yes." By the same token, if the voters say "no" again, Ireland will lose valuable support and could be reduced to secondary status within the EU membership.

The approval vote, should it come, will add to Cowen's and his party's prestige and perhaps restore to them the electoral support they have lost because of the economic crisis.