EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

In response to David Egan’s letter dated 21 May and entitled ‘Ireland and Lisbon: Time for some democracy’:

Mr. Egan appears to object to the idea that politicians should give some leadership. Having been a politician for 21 years, I can assure him that if politicians only did what the electorate tell them to do, public policy would be simply chaotic.

The Lisbon Treaty has not been handled in an “anti-democratic” way in Ireland, as he alleges. The Convention on the Future of Europe was given good coverage by the Irish media. The Irish participants – from government and opposition to EP and civil society groups – carried out extensive consultations. The National Forum on Europe devoted many plenary sessions to the Treaty and held a series of information meetings at locations around the country. The Forum has produced an accurate and fair summary of the Treaty, which is freely available. The Referendum Commission is conducting an ongoing awareness campaign about the referendum and has commented on some of the issues which have arisen during the course of the debate. The Government has published a White Paper, which also gives a fair account of the Treaty.

The principal political parties have also been engaged in holding public meetings on the issue. I myself have spoken at a number of these. They have had attendances ranging from about 50 people to almost 200. The parliamentary European Affairs Committee has taken the step, previously unprecedented in Irish politics, of organising public consultation meetings in locations around the country.

All of these meetings have been open to the public and most of the audiences have included anti-Treaty campaigners. All of the media have devoted time and space to debates on the issue. So much for Mr. Egan’s contention that there has been “no democratic debate”.

It is undoubtedly the case that a majority of the population will not have participated in such a meeting: this simply proves the wisdom of the old saying: “you can bring the horse to the water but you cannot make him drink”.

I would argue that politicians on both sides of the argument have taken their duty to lead in a serious way. Misrepresenting the activity taking place, as Mr. Egan has, is not a valid contribution to the democratic debate which he claims to favour.

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