Media Dam-Burst: After Lisbon
Immigration as an issue was gagged during the Lisbon debate, but as soon as the result was out, the dam burst and all three Sunday broadsheets admitted that immigration had been a big factor in the result. Here is what they had to say:-
In the political equivalent of stagflation the spectres of recession, unemployment and immigration were the key defining factors in Ireland’s EU Tale of the Unexpected.
John Drennan – Sunday Independent.
The trade union debacle in helping to vote down the Lisbon charter of workers' rights is more complicated and a bit easier to forgive. At the heart of it lies the thing which dare not speak its name - the flood of foreign workers.
If anything lost the treaty, this was surely it. The pro-EU leaders of the country's biggest union, SIPTU, simply could not get a `Vote Yes' call past their members.
The foreign workers are a phenomenon of EU membership, of course. But the details as to how they are employed, and under what terms, are in large measure a matter for the Government.
The cloak of social partnership hid deep disagreement between the Government and employers on one side, and the unions on the other, over the kind of labour market the Irish economy needs.
It is still Boston or Berlin, but no-one wants to say so. Had that argument been fought openly, and the Government admitted it disagrees with the unions, and thinks giving them all they want would cripple the economy, there might at least have been a chance for voters to distinguish the baby from the bathwater, before both disappeared down the plughole.
Brendan Keenan – Sunday Independent.
There is also the great unmentionable in Irish politics- the political impact of the recent surge of immigration. The Nice Treaty opened up Ireland to the citizens of the other 27 members and, as we enter more difficult economic times, a new tension around employment, schooling and social services may be emerging. Most profoundly, immigration has changed the Ireland we grew up in, and its permanence is just beginning to dawn on people. Many see Europe as the principal source of this change.
Tom McGurk – Sunday Business Post.
Few will admit publicly to voting no for this reason, but privately many politicians believe concerns among some voters about the huge influx of foreign workers – particularly against the backdrop of a downturn in the economy - is a factor in declining support for the EU in Ireland. To be fair to the No side, nobody even hinted at this as an issue but it was unquestionably there in the minds of some voters.
Conor McMorrow and Shane Coleman – Sunday Tribune.
Let it be noted that none of these papers attended our press conference in Buswell’s Hotel on the 19th of March; RTE attended but never used the footage; the Irish Times did not take up our offer to write on their Opinion and Analysis page, although even the crime writer, Freddie Forsyth was welcome. A complaint to RTÉ was met with the response that their reporters had not found immigration to be an issue in the campaign.
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Two Gaping Holes in Lisbon Debate
There have been two gaping holes in the Lisbon debate.
1. Not one media person, apparently, has asked why our Government was originally strongly opposed to the Charter of Fundamental Rights being legally binding but now wish it to be so. The Charter is of concern to several groups opposing the treaty and its implications are one of the main concerns for ICP.
2. Immigration has been deliberately sidelined as an issue. Sean Whelan of RTÉ said on the main news recently that asylum and immigration was one of the few areas in the treaty where there was significant change but that “mysteriously” it had not featured in the debate.
It has not been allowed to feature. On the 19th March ICP held a press conference in Buswell’s. RTÉ cameras covered it but the piece has never been used, though even ad hoc groupings such as a women’s press conference on Thursday were shown. This is exactly as was the case in the Nice 2 campaign.
The Irish Times had many pieces pro and con on their Opinion and Analysis pages and we offered to contribute. Nothing was heard from them, though even Freddie Forsyth was considered worthy of a piece. This is in spite of the fact that the National Forum on Europe considered us suitable to make an oral presentation on their submissions day.
Our case may be seen on their website or, in an earlier draft on our own website [below].
See press release
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ICP opposed to Lisbon Treaty
Immigration Control Platform opposes the Lisbon Treaty because of its implications for asylum and immigration.
Most of our worries centre around the Charter of Fundamental Rights which is absolutely sweeping in its scope [“The Charter represents a quantum leap in the formulation of rights...” Prof. Dermot Walsh, School of Law, University of Limerick].
Unlike any other international rights convention it has no denunciation or “opt-out” clause. Speaking at a seminar on another convention in NUI, Galway, Prof. Schabas of the Human Rights Centre said all conventions have this opt-out clause without which no country would sign them.
This leaves us open for all time to the interpretations of the European Court of Justice on nearly everything.
Article 18 of the Charter binds us to asylum in a way which could and surely would be interpreted by the ECJ as removing the right we currently have to opt out of the Geneva Convention on Refugees. This is a right since we signed it in 1954 before the EU even came into existence. The British government, some time ago, suggested it might have to implement that opt-out clause.
Article 18 might also be interpreted as imposing “burden-sharing” of refugees on us on the basis that if one imposed a right of asylum on a member state the quid pro quo would have to be burden-sharing (cf. the pressures on Malta).
Catherine Costello, legal expert, has suggested that Article 15 could necessitate the right to work for asylum seekers – a huge pull factor. She has also suggested that Article 35 could undermine even the EU’s own directives on health entitlements for asylum seekers.
Several articles in the Charter are so broad in scope as to allow for an interpretation that at a certain point (after x years) one could not deport an illegal, thereby necessitating amnesties (e.g. Article 1 on “human dignity” or Article 4 on “inhuman treatment”).
The 4th Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty may not protect us. It currently gives us an exemption from rules on asylum and immigration. The ECJ could well argue that the 4th Protocol has been hollowed out because we have chosen to opt in to almost all directives and could declare us now bound by the common asylum policy. The same could eventually apply to immigration. Or it could declare the Charter to be more “fundamental” than anything else such as the 4th Protocol and therefore binding. We are at the mercy of the ECJ for all interpretations and the “European Project” will be its overriding concern.
Following from the above, we would also be very worried about the move to Qualified Majority Voting (loss of veto) in the area of asylum and immigration because of its potential future inclusion of us.
In a volatile and speedily changing world we would be mad to sign the blank cheque with no exit clause that is the Charter of Fundamental Rights. That is why Britain has opted out of it.
See Also: ICP Press Statement on Lisbon Treaty
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