Europe is reeling at Ireland for not being able to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon; the Irish People said in a referendum that they didn’t want to approve the Bill that would amend the Constitution to allow the Irish Parliament to ratify the Treaty. No other countries in Europe had to have a referendum to ratify so why did Ireland? This is a very interesting point, Ireland’s Constitution makes it’s Parliament the sole lawmaker for the State–it and it alone can make law. This means that when EU law claims to be enforceable in Irish Courts and when EU law claims to be higher than Irish law even the Irish Constitution there is a conflict. In order to address this a provision was added to the Constitution by the 3rd Amendment which makes Article 29.4.10° state:
No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State which are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union or of the Communities, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the European Union or by the Communities or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the Treaties establishing the Communities, from having the force of law in the State.
This means that EU law takes precedence over the provisions of Irish Law. The Irish Courts siad after this Amendment was passed that there was an expectation that the Union would develop and change. However, where the change was serious and ground-breaking then the changes effected by that Treaty would not be afforded that exemptions from Constitutional compliance in Article 29.4.10° (above) and that in order for them to be given that exemption they could have to be approved by a referendum to amend the Constitution to allow that State to ratify the Treaty. However, the Courts did say only serious ground-breaking changes needed to be put to a referendum there is an argument to say that the Irish government are being too cautious in what they regard as serious and ground-breaking. The Treaty of Maastricht was clearly ground-breaking and thus needed a referendum but, Amsterdam and Nice were less so and may not have needed one. I don’t know how the Courts would regard the Lisbon Treaty in terms of its effect on EU law–would it be ground-breaking enough to require a referendum?
So you see why the Irish people got to vote on Lisbon whereas all the other member States were denied this vote. I think this is a democratic deficit in the way the EU works; surly all major amending treaties should as part of there terms require approval by the People; I am not sure what form this should take–nation by nation, pan-Europe or some other form I don’t know yet but, it is important for democracy that people are consulted more directly.
This takes us to the argument that People aren’t smart enough to vote on Treaties like Lisbon–they are huge complicated documents that work on such varied topics that they can’t be fully understood by regular people. Looking at the Treaty of Lisbon it is a complicated document that needs a lot of work to understand the meaning of some parts of it because it is now an amending treaty so it has to be read with all the other treaties of Europe in order to be able to decide what it means. This is not an argument for not allowing the People to vote on it though it just means that for those of us that don’t understand the treaty for whatever reason it must be explained to us and debate must be allowed for people to form a view on it.
Europe is for the People of Europe; it is their Union and they deserve to be heard and when politicians say that we aren’t clever enough to decide for ourselves how we want to see our Union develop it is an indictment on their fitness to lead us.
As a matter of clarification I voted ‘Yes’ to the treaty but, I respect the vote of the Irish People as a democratic decision that was denied to the rest of Europe.