A second Irish referendum

Election posters in Ireland (picture Jnestorius)

There are lots of reasons for doubting whether holding a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty is a good idea, or whether it can be won, but it cannot be correct to say that to do so would be undemocratic.

The EU treaties require the unanimous assent of each member state, which each gives according to its own constitutional requirements. In Ireland, this means a referendum. When, and how many, is a matter for the Irish.

It would be quite wrong if the other member states forced the Irish to have another vote, if the Irish government preferred to abandon ratification (and this might still happen). But it is also wrong for the other countries to refuse to allow the Irish another vote, if that is what they want.

We hear a lot from British eurosceptics who insist that Britain should be allowed to make its own decisions regarding the EU but who refuse to accord to Ireland the same privilege.

Why should there be another referendum? The basic treaty will be identical, but a number of aspects might be clarified or, in the implementation, even changed. For example, it is likely that the number of European commissioners will stay at one per member state, and not be reduced as per the original idea.

What this means is that the Irish government has got changes made to the proposal that it thinks will be more attractive to the Irish voters but which are still acceptable to the rest of the EU. That way, the Irish get more of what they want, and less of what they don’t want. Isn’t that a good result for Ireland? Isn’t that what democracy is about?

About the Author