Friday, October 02, 2009

Today's the day

Actually, the voting on the outlying islands started two days ago. And, according to The Times, the very first vote was cast in Barry Edgar Pilcher's living room in Raven Cottage on Inishfree - it went to the "no" campaign.

Mr Pilcher, 66, a London-born artist and musician, serenaded locals on his saxophone as they voted. "I voted 'no' because I think we shouldn't give our power away," Mr Pilcher said. Turnout was high, with five of Inishfree's seven eligible voters casting a ballot. Patsy Dan Rodgers, the "king" of neighbouring Tory Island, said most of the 150 islanders would vote "no" – rather appropriate for the "Tories".

With the vote expected to favour the "yes" camp, however, God – or, at least, the Vatican, which is not quite the same thing – has made an unexpected intervention, warning that the European Union threatens Ireland's "identity, traditions and history".

This is Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, who spoke during the Pope's visit to the Czech Republic, noting that: "Individual European countries have their own identity. The EU prescribes its laws or views to them and they do not have to fit with their traditions and history. Some countries are logically resisting this – for example, Ireland."

Anodyne though this might be, it has been seized upon by the "no" camp in what is regarded as an increasingly acrimonious campaign, with prime minister Brian Cowen still lying through his teeth, claiming that he had secured "legal guarantees" from the EU on Irish concerns about the treaty.

Whatever the "yessies" might say about their level of support, Dr John O'Brennan, European politics lecturer at NUI Maynooth, is warning that the level of anger among Irish voters towards an unpopular government should not be under-estimated.

"If you talk to people all around the country," he says, "a level of anger is very, very high. Are people rational enough to put that aside and think of the interests of the country in the longer term? I'm not so sure." That is obviously from a Europhile and he may not have picked up another factor – more than a few Irish are a tad annoyed with being made to vote again, their first vote having been ignored by their political classes.

Results are not due until Saturday, and it will be mid-morning before we get an idea of which way the sentiment is going, but there is still some hope that the "piss off" factor will prevail and the Irish will have the sense to give the "colleagues" in Brussels a bloody nose.