I know, I promised a brand spanking new strip today, but I didn't want to miss an opportunity to write a little something about Ireland's referendum on the Lisbon Treaty last Friday. Even if it is a little late.
Being the only EU member state to hold a referendum on the Treaty (although Poland and the Czech Republic have both yet to ratify it in their parliaments), the Irish approval of the Lisbon Treaty means that the European Union is one step to further intergration, allowing the creation of the post of "President of Europe" and streamlining and reforming many institutions within the Union (such as allowing the European Parliament to be more involved in the legislation process and making the European Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding). Great if you're the sort of person that likes the idea of a united and federal Europe. Not so great if you're David Cameron or are horrified at the prospect that Tony Blair has his eyes on the soon-to-be newly created European presidency.
Eurosckeptics claim that Friday's result was due to the fact that the Irish were essentially bullied by their Government to accepting the Treaty. It cannot be denied that the referendum followed on from last year's one where 53.4% said "No" to the Treaty, but it could be argued that the state of the Irish economy resulted in more voters turning out to Friday's referendum. After Spain, Ireland has been most affected by the global economic crisis; unemployment is currently at 13% - it's highest level since 1996 - and 400'000 people now claim unemployment benefit. The Fianna Fail and Green coalition government argued that to reject the Treaty a second time would risk Ireland from being isolated by the EU and being denied a resuce package from the European Central Bank to save the Irish banking system and economy.
It would seem therefore that the Irish took this on board when voting in the referendum, to reject the Treaty a second time would supposedly be economic suicide. However, the only county in Ireland that rejected the Treaty a second time was Donegal, which also happens to be the poorest county in the country. Donegal's economy relies heavily on the fishing and tourism, which have both been severely affected by the recession in Ireland. As a result, the unemployment rate in Donegal currently stands at 23%, the highest in the republic. So if the state of the economy was the defining factor on Friday's referendum, then why did the portion of the "No" vote in Ireland's poorest county stay the same?
New strip on Friday, I promise!