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Ireland lances Euro Sceptic Boil


Ireland has turned its back on obsurantism and said yes to a plan to raise the political voice of Europe in world affairs, based on early results Saturday.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the treaty aimed at streamlining the operations of the European Union after rejecting the same pact only last year.

"Ireland has lanced the Euro sceptic boil and finally turned on the Murdoch media which  has come to dominate popular opinion through such rags as the "Irish" Sun, said Jem Casey, the West of Ireland commentator.

Voters delivered a "convincing win" for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the E.U. its first full-time president (Tony Blair?) and foreign policy chief.

Approval of the treaty follows a bitterly fought campaign that raised concerns among foreign investors about Ireland's commitment to the 27-nation bloc but ultimately hinged on Ireland's profound economic troubles.

The yes side had a roughly 60 percent majority in the early vote counting.

Declan Ganley, the British-born ( "I am an Irishman, and I resent anybody trying to tell me that I am not." Irish entrepreneur who campaigned heavily against the treaty, conceded defeat.

Pro-treaty groups, determined to avoid a repeat of last year's no vote, enlisted the support of prominent businesses in Ireland, like the American chipmaker Intel and the budget airline Ryanair, as well as Irish celebrities like the U2 guitarist The Edge and the poet Seamus Heaney. They argued that the country had benefited mightily from E.U. membership.

Over the last year and a half, the so-called Celtic Tiger has lost its roar, as Ireland has suffered through one of the worst real estate busts of any country in the world.

With the economy continuing to function largely because of E.U. support, in the form of liquidity from the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, many voters apparently decided that thumbing their noses at their European neighbors would have been a bad idea.

"Ireland has sent a very strong signal to the governments and the boardrooms of the world that it is fully engaged in Europe," said Brigid Laffan, professor of European politics at University College Dublin.

A no vote by Ireland would have buried the Lisbon Treaty for good, creating institutional chaos in Brussels. Analysts say it would have killed any remaining momentum for further enlargement of the 27-nation E.U., beyond Croatia, which is already in advanced negotiations, and Iceland, which is considered a shoe-in once it gets its economy mended.

The referendum is subject to unanimous approval by the E.U.'s 27 members, but, the Irish do not get the final word. Poland has not yet adopted the treaty, though President Lech Kaczynski said prior to the Irish vote that he would sign if the referendum passed. In the Czech Republic, the sometimes difficult President Vaclav Klaus also has yet to sign the accord, which is being reviewed by the country's constitutional court.

Mr. Klaus  could try to hold out until next spring, when Britain is required to hold parliamentary elections. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party,  widely expected to be the next prime minister, has vowed to hold a referendum on the treaty; given the prevailing mood of Euroskepticism in Britain, that would almost certainly result in a no vote.

In the Irish vote, treaty supporters overcame opposition of a possible loss of Irish sovereignty. The very word "treaty" resonates deeply in the Irish psyche; the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which ended the war of independence from Britain, resulted in the Irish civil war when treaty opponents took up arms against supporters.

E.U. officials say the treaty is necessary to help governments coordinate policies on issues like terrorism and the environment in a bloc whose membership has grown by a dozen countries over the last five years, making existing governance processes unwieldy.

More at FT.COM

Obama's Kennedy-esque Popularity in Ireland

Marching alongside the Irish tricolour in Clifden's St Patrick's Day parade were no less than three Irishmen wearing signboards featuring photos of Obama and proclaiming "Saint Barack" and "President Obama: a New Hope." The almost entirely Irish crowd roared as they marched past.

#Dan Treul

Forget about the luck of the Irish. Ireland is facing its most serious economic crisis in decades. Its government -- led by bumbling Taoiseach Brian Cowen -- inspires the same sort of confidence that charging Gen. George Pickett does among Civil War historians, and after rejecting the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, its relationship with the European Union is anything but stable.

Enter Obama, who despite the widespread cynicism accompanying Ireland's political and economic woes, is enjoying levels of Irish support and enthusiasm unseen since Kennedy became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Emerald Isle in 1963.

I was recently at the St. Patrick's Day parade in Clifden, Co. Galway, during the course of a four-month study program on the island, and to say that the European attitude toward the United States has undergone a seismic shift since Obama's inauguration would be a gross understatement. Marching alongside the traditional tricolour of Ireland were nothing less than three Irishmen wearing signboards featuring photos of Obama and proclaiming "Saint Barack" and "President Obama: a New Hope." The almost entirely Irish crowd roared as they marched past.

In the days and weeks following Obama's inauguration, which was widely viewed in pubs across Ireland, the American president has proven a topic of conversation nearly as popular as the current economic crisis and football, or, soccer. The anger directed toward George W. Bush and the United States following the invasion and occupation of Iraq has largely subsided, with the Irish in particular looking to Obama for positive change.

Of course, as always happens when any European country gets excited about anything remotely progressive in the United States, conservatives will likely wonder, "Great. Who cares?" In physical size, Ireland is, after all, slightly larger than West Virginia. Such critics, though, would be wise to remember that in the United States alone, more than 40 million Americans claim Irish descendancy, and the tiny island has been hugely significant in the development of American culture and economy. Just ask Pat Buchanan.

In visiting Derry in Northern Ireland, where recent killings by IRA splinter cells have once again threatened to destabilize the peace process, I had an opportunity to meet John Hume, former SDLP leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who insisted that the efforts of Americans such as Jimmy Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and George Mitchell in advancing peace are not forgotten in both the North and South. Hundreds of other American mayors, congressmen, senators, and civic leaders have further contributed to the relationship.

"We're living in a much smaller world," said Hume. "It should be the objective of the major leaders of the world to ensure a world without war and advance the philosophy of conflict resolution...spilling sweat together and not blood."

As Hume spoke, I could not help but think of Obama's recent European tour, in which he rose above the ideological differences of the past, apologizing for America's "arrogance" of the past, called for G20 and NATO nations to take the lead in meaningful nuclear disarmament, and, before the Turkish parliament, declared that "the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam." The trip was greeted with glowing reviews in the Irish press.

As John Hume said, "The essence of our unity in the modern world is respect for our diversity."

Just over 100 days into his presidency and evidenced by the reaction to his progressive agenda here in Ireland, Barack Obama seems the perfect man to deliver the message.

Dan Treul recently finished his English degree at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI where he has lived for 19 years. He is particularly interested in the arts, travel, and political communication. Former editor of The Saint student newspaper, Dan currently works as a freelance writer and contributor for Aquinas College Relations. His creative and nonfiction work has appeared in several local publications, as well as been featured by "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill" online.

"The Cruiser" dies

Conor Cruise O'Brien, an Irish diplomat, politician, man of letters and public intellectual who staked out an independent position for Ireland in the United Nations and, despite his Catholic origins, championed the rights of Protestants in Northern Ireland has. He was 91

Once described by the social critic Christopher Hitchens as "an internationalist, a wit, a polymath and a provocateur," Mr. O'Brien was a rare combination of scholar and public servant who applied his erudition and stylish pen to a long list of causes, some hopeless, others made less so by his combative reasoning. When called upon, he would put down his pen and enter the fray, more often than not emerging bruised and bloodied.

As a diplomat, he helped chart Ireland's course as an independent, anticolonialist voice at the United Nations and played a critical role in the United Nations intervention in Congo in 1961. 

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Independent Isles

The spirit that moved Eire to declare her independence moved two of her western isles to assert their own independence of Eire. For 40 years the 200 fisherfolk of Turn and Turbot have maintained an "untaxable republic," refusing to pay taxes to County Galway on the mainland.

Last week, as often before, Galway Council sent the bailiffs to Turn and Turbot to collect £12,000 ($48,000) in back taxes.

But the bailiffs were baffled again. Nobody was home. Every house was silent. The cattle had been turned out on the common where they could not be seized. The previous night, every Turner and Turboter had shoved off together to "visit relatives" in Aran, 25 miles away.

N.Ireland peacemaker Mitchell endorses Obama

 Retired US senator George Mitchell, who steered the tough negotiations that led to lasting peace in Northern Ireland, threw his support Thursday behind fellow Democrat Barack Obama in the US presidential race.

Speaking to local newspaper editors in his home state of Maine, Mitchell said he was "quite good friends" with Republican contender John McCain, having sat in the US Senate with him for 10 years.

"I think he's a good guy; I just think that Barack Obama is the right guy to be president," he told the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal editorial board, in an interview carried on their website.

Mitchell said am Obama presidency would represent a sea change after the eight-year administration of President George W. Bush which, he argued, had landed the United States in a serious financial crisis and lowered the nation's esteem in the eyes of the world.

Of McCain's running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Mitchell -- who brokered the Good Friday peace accord in 1998 that ended three decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland that cost around 3,000 lives -- said she was unknown to him.

Her husband Todd Palin, a endurance snowmobile racer, is to campaign for McCain and his wife this weekend in Maine where the Republican ticket has the support of the state's 30,000-member snowmobile association.

The George Mitchell Scholarship