Debate and Bluster

A series of heavyweight bouts on RTE’s Prime Time’ last night: Micheal Martin vs Joe Higgins, Pat Cox vs Mary Lou MacDonald, Michael O’Leary vs Declan Ganley, Mick McCarthy vs Roy Keane…No, I made that last one up. The subject for verbal fisticuffs was the Lisbon Treaty and the contestants produced more heat than light, I’m afraid. Either we got readings from Section 40 Subsection 211, paragraph 4 of the Treaty (zzzzzzzz) or we got name-calling that told you more about the caller than the called.

Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael wasn’t one of the Main Bouts men but he did get a little interview clip in which to present his Treaty views. Instead he spent much of his time attacking Sinn Fein’s line on the Treaty’s plans for increased EU militarization. How hypocritical, Gay said. Sinn Fein weapons were the main obstacle in the construction and signing of the Good Friday Agreement. You see the strategy? Attack your opponent and sidestep his argument. Or as they say in football parlance, Gay played the man and not the ball. Gay, incidentally, is 100% behind the Lisbon Treaty.

Michael O’Leary of Ryanair was one of the Main Bouts men, and yes, you may wonder why. Well, Michael is a hard-headed businessman with a fleet of airplanes all over Europe, so presumably he’d have something to say. And so it proved. Showing the classical non-rational strategy of labeling your opponent, O’Leary kept telling Ganley that he – Ganley – was a failed politician, so he’d no right to express his views on anything, least of all on Lisbon. Michael didn’t say this once – he said it about four times, so people wouldn’t forget it. The programme presenter, Miriam O’Callaghan, wanted him to comment on the Treaty but Michael figured slagging off his opponent would reap more rewards.

And do you know the most awful thing? It may do. I thought Ganley had the more informed and evidence-based opinion on the Treaty, but it’s O’Leary’s words about ‘a failed politician’ that stick in my mind. Presumably that was O’Leary’s intention. More happily, Mary Lou’s argument that, if the south of Ireland signs up to Lisbon, it will be tied into increased military spending and a common EU defence policy, also stuck in my mind.
So what should the No people do between now and voting day? Maybe take a leaf out of O’Leary’s grubby book and in the time remaining, start megaphoning your best sound-bites again and again. Say ‘Join an EU Army? Hell No, we won’t go!’

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