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.
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