Sunday 30 November 2008

UCD Dublin European Institute: Ireland’s Future in Europe

Cork lawyer and legal blogger Fergus O’Rourke did it! He located the discussion paper I have been looking for these last two days, and pestering the world about. Thank you, Fergus!

Frustratingly, it is (at least now) posted ‘right under our noses’, on the University College Dublin pages, which I searched two days ago, in vain.

Besides having been commended by Senator and Chairman Paschal Donohoe in the Oireachtas Sub-Committee Report, the UCD Dublin discussion paper discusses European scenarios of general EU interest.

Ireland is not the only one with choices to make concerning the future of and in Europe (as I argue in the preceding post regarding the NIC world trends).

UPDATE - Edited 30 November 2008 about 17:25 EET:

The UCD Dublin European Institute 31 page discussion paper Ireland’s Future in Europe – Scenarios and Implications, by Gavin Barrett, Brigid Laffan, Rodney Thom, Daniel C. Thomas, Ben Tonra (12 November 2008).

The link first offered by me was somehow broken. Instead, follow the advice kindly offered by the UCD EIT Director Daniel Thomas.

Go to the homepage of the Institute and scroll down to the bottom of the page. There are links to both the discussion paper and the Oireachtas report:

In addition, if you click on the side bar at Working papers, there is an earlier one 08-01 which also addresses the Lisbon Treaty:

Gavin Barrett, Final Impact: The Treaty of Lisbon and the Final Provisions of the Treaty Establishing the European Community and the Treaty on European Union, UCD Dublin European Institute Working Paper 08-1, May 2008.


I want to thank Fergus O'Rourke and Daniel Thomas for their help, and I apologise to the people I have troubled with my questions.

Ralf Grahn


  1. I notice that the European Union Law Blog, writing in German, has posted on the UCD DEI discussion paper, commenting that the various scenarios have been presented very clearly.

    (Some may doubt if there is a European public sphere, but in my mind there is at least the beginnings of a European blogosphere.)

    By the way, these latest times I have been glad to follow the commendable activity on the European Union Law Blog, shich has been monitoring the progress of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic, in Ireland and elsewhere.

    The European Union Law Blog should definitively be on your reading (feeds) list, if you are interested in EU law and politics.

  2. Thank you very much for recommending my blog. :-D

  3. Now that both reports are available, and may have even been read, the question posed is: how did Ireland get itself into such a mess and give rise to the need for them ?

    The answer has two components (i) the elites - and Ireland was not alone in this - failed to bring the electorate along as the EU increased to 27 Member States and (ii) the level of political, economic and legal debate in Ireland is abysmal.

    Given the nature of this blog, I will confine my comments to the last-mentioned.

    The Crotty judgement, on which the need for referendums in Ireland is based, is just plain silly. If the judgement of the learned judges was to be followed, Ireland's membership of the UN should have been the subject of a referendum.

    The legal eagles also felt it necessary to put into the Constitution provisions in relation to the implementation of the provisions of the treaties of Amsterdam and Nice. This would be unheard of in any other constitutional order. Either you have authority to ratify a treaty and implement its provisions or you do not.

    In other words, the insular and incestuous nature of the legal community in Ireland has given rise to a curious form of "Hibernian constitutional law" divorced from general international practice.

    A noted Irish satirical writer
    once suggested that every child born in Ireland should be issued with a university degree as this would set them up for life. Not alone do lawyers get a degree in Ireland, it is also accompanied by a decree of (mistaken) infallibility.

    Another comment I heard recently was to the effect that Ireland was emerging from a state of "post-colonial adolescence". I think that there is more than a grain of truth in this. Brussels was seen solely in terms of resource transfers and now that these have begun to run out, and, horror of horrors, Ireland may have to become a net contributor, voter ardour has cooled considerably.

    A last point worth mentioning is the impact of immigration from the new Member States, the largest in percentage terms of any Member State. These arrivals are seen as displacing lower-skilled Irish workers and pushing down wages.

    When coupled with the fact that the Irish economy has fallen off a cliff because of reckless government policies, the holding of another referendum is fraught with risk.

  4. Dagny,

    Thank you for your comments.

    I just noticed that Laurent Pech has written a paper about the necessity to hold or not to hold referendums on EU treaties in Ireland.

    If I remember correctly, it has been published by Notre Europe, but the name was in English.

    Having read some of Pech's earlier papers, I guess that you would find and analytical and competent treatment in this study, if you are interested.

  5. I have seen the paper to which you refer. There is no shortage of such papers. What has been lacking, and is still lacking, is any political nous or cop-on at the levels at which it really matters.

    One of the recognizable failures of the referendum campaign was the use by campaigning politicians of the posters for their own local political ends. And guess what! The report of the Sub-Committee of the parliament is plastered with the photographs of the participants (the new generation with the same blinkered attitudes as the old).

    A lot of the difficulty arises from the fact that Ireland has a system of pure proportional representation combined with multi-seater constituencies. This results in politicians from the same party competing against each other for seats. The result is predictable. Constituency carve-ups and 'clientilism' the equivalent of which could only be found in the United States.

    By way of example, nobody raises an eyebrow when a serving minister "brings home the bacon" to his constituency by way of public investment, government decentralisation etc. (In the US it is called 'pork barrel').

    The US is a big country. Ireland is a small one and it can no longer afford this type of government. The electorate knows it.

    No doubt, the European Council will produce a solution on the Danish model. But the government's problem is how to get it adopted by an angry electorate waiting in the long grass to get them. The government is going to be wiped out in the local and European elections. This blood-letting has to take place before there is any possibility of a popular endorsement of the Lisbon Treaty.

    It would be a fool-hardy politician who trusted in anything that the 'commentariat' produced ahead of the "wisdom of crowds".

  6. Dagny,

    Your comments look interesting, well informed and troubling.

    There was a fair amount of discussion on this blog during the summer, after the Irish referendum.

    I thought that putting the same question to the electorate for a second time would lead to a new refusal, but I see that the Oireachtas Sub-Committee does not seem willing to recommend a 'high-risk strategy' putting Ireland's EU membership on the line.

    From where I sit, it is difficult to gauge if time, reflection, the arguments of once defeated politicians or the progress of the ratification processes in other member states have any impact on Irish public opinion.

    I surmise that neither the financial crisis nor the recession with resulting budget cuts is going to endear the current political leadership to the voters.

    That said, I could still call a new vote on the Lisbon Treaty plus a few declarations or decisions a 'high risk strategy' for the government parties, for Ireland and for the rest of the EU.

    In my view, the Lisbon Treaty falls far short of the effective and democratic world actor we EU citizens would need, but in the short term it is the only offer on the table, with some improvements.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.