DONEGAL TIMES

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August 28th 2002

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Behind Closed Doors
with Cross Bencher

NICE REFERENDUM: Replay

It wasn’t a draw the first time, but the Government’s games administration council have ordered a replay - something about an uneven playing pitch, or too many substitutes.

Dana will field on the ‘No’ side again as she continues to show her loyalty to that nippy right winger Justin Barrett. I hope the bishops have the good sense to stay out of this one. Their referendum track record is very poor in any case, and it is never clear whether they are an asset or a liability to the side they play for.

ENLARGEMENT

The Nice Treaty is totally about enlargement. It is an agreement on how the E.C. structures will operate when the new members from Eastern Europe come on board, probably doubling the number of members, over the course of the next twenty years. It is an agreement among existing members about changes required to ensure reasonably smooth running of a much larger entity, while taking on board the anticipated concerns and impediments of the new applicant countries. This would all seem to be an eminently sensible thing to do.

As a respected member of the present community, Ireland was not only at the negotiating table, but probably carried a shout above its importance as an economic or population entity.

THE IRELAND TEAM would have consisted of a very knowledgable and experienced set of diplomats and civil servants continuously consulting and advising the Taoiseach and the other relevant ministers.

There was no political agenda at play, other than Ireland’s wholehearted acceptance of enlargement, while protecting Ireland’s interests in this new E.C.

These negotiations were in train for a number of years - it wasn’t just a weekend of late nights hammering out something ‘Behind Closed Doors’ amid cigar smoke and brandy fumes.

We can be proud of the commitment and ability of our diplomats and their contributions to the final agreement.

It was probably somewhat similar to our initial entry; easy to understand, and similar in its content of agreeing structures for a larger group of countries under the E.C. umbrella. The Yes vote then was secured by a large majority. Does anybody out there doubt the benefits of that decision?

Now, for two years, we have assorted groups proclaiming that Ireland is getting a bad deal in the Nice Treaty. Where are they really coming from?

They all agree with the idea of enlargement. But what they are saying is that Dana, Gerry Adams, Trevor Sergeant and Joe Higgins (plus their advisers of course) could achieve a better result for Ireland, a better result for the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe, indeed a better deal for Europe and the whole world. Isn’t this a total fantasy!

Any of us can dream of all the great things we could do if we were Taoiseach for a period, but in reality only absolute dictators can play out their dreams e.g. Stalin, Sadaam. But even they are limited to what happens within their own borders.

Isn’t it a bit foolish for the rest of us to fall in with the dreaming of Dana, Gerry, Trevor and Joe, specially bearing in mind that none of them are in each other’s dreams - dreams which tend to converge on the environment and military neutrality - populist issues - like motherhood and rhubarb pie in August.

Yet the E.C. does far more for environment and green policies than if we were left to our own devices. Is anybody suggesting that Nice will curtail this?

There are more genuinely anti-militarists among E.C. members than any other region of the world, yet Gerry could make an improvement for us all in this area, via the Nice Treaty. Now we are really in Alice’s Wonderland!

If we are in favour of enlargement, then let us put faith in our team of professional diplomats and civil servants to achieve a better conclusion for Ireland than could be done by Dana, Gerry, Trevor and Joe.

Even if our highly regarded team of diplomats are left out of the equation - is it not preferable that we are represented by Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, than any combination of the other four?

DONEGAL TOWN’S DEVELOPMENT

There has been no political or official Council comment on the effects of the recent Bord Pleanala decision which seems to put a full-stop to two very desirable commercial developments in the town. This leaves the way open to rumour as to the possibility of strings being pulled in a biased way against this town.

These mutterings would seem to be based on the hypothesis that certain high-up Council officials emanate from areas whose interests would not be served by Donegal Town becoming the commercial centre of the South-West of the county. But this is wrong - proper development would benefit all. Instead of casting envious eyes up and down the road, all towns should see themselves as partners, promoting the whole area of South Donegal with a strong unified voice.

This, of course, need not entail the ending of the healthy rivalry between Aodh Rua and Four Masters. Just mentioning the names of the two clubs underlines the old historical affinity.


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