Mick Mulholland’s Political Notebook - Implications of Yes Vote

REAL life has returned after the referendum and the economic war rages on.

REAL life has returned after the referendum and the economic war rages on.

Household charges, water metering, the location for a new children’s hospital and allowances for public servants are among the issues to be dealt with.

The seemingly intractable problems of chronic unemployment and enforced emigration are still there.

The Yes majority gives us some enhanced clout in Brussels and shows us to be a mature State.

But it is no more than that.

Much work remains to be done and the early signals from Germany on some relief in our bank debt are far from positive.

Half the electorate did not even bother to vote.

Some, perhaps, were voters who could not make up their minds. Staying away was the best option.

Others may have felt alienated from the political system to such a degree that voting was pointless.

That level of alienation is deeply worrying. And yet it must also be recognised that people have a responsibility in a democracy to use their vote.

The 60-40 result was, by any standards, a comfortable victory for the Yes side.

And the No side suffered a significant defeat.

If we require a second bailout, we have a better chance of securing the money at a reasonable interest rate following the Yes vote.

And we will be subject to tighter fiscal controls, no bad thing given the profligacy of the years of excess and waste.

But there has been no major breakthrough in the winning of the economic war.

The referendum result is no more than a small step on the long road to recovery.

The same applies in terms of the political implications of the result.

No firm or definitive conclusions should be drawn from the referendum in terms of the shape of the long-term political landscape.

Last Friday, when it became clear the treaty would be carried, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, was on the phone to other European, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, looking for some relief on the bank debt.

Dr Merkel is clearly waiting to see that a set of rules are in place before conceding anything on that infamous debt or funding generally.

That is understandable. If Germany is writing some of the cheques, political reality dictates that she must assure her own people that there will be no reckless waste of money.

Her welcome for the Irish vote was upbeat and one can only shiver when considering what she might have said if the result had been No.

She said the result was good news for Ireland and for Europe and deserved respect because of the hardship that Ireland had endured.

No doubt those who felt that voting No would send strong signals to Europe, which would be listened to, remain steadfast in their view. But it is nonsense.

We simply do not have that kind of clout in Europe.

Those in the higher echelons of Irish society brought us to this sorry pass. Nobody else.

It was, unfortunately, our own who brought us down.

And now we are reaping a bitter, bitter harvest.

When will those who believe we can swagger our way around Europe grasp that we our standing is only slowly being rebuilt?

And it is being rebuilt at a terrible cost to the Irish people.

Attempting to mislead people that there is an easy way out of the mess is very wrong. There is nothing worse than raising hopes only to see them mercilessly dashed.

Politically, the Government will be well aware that there will be no kudos in the Yes vote.

People gritted their teeth, in the face of ongoing austerity, and voted for the treaty, mainly because we may need the money for a second bailout.

And there was, also, a recognition that, by and large, Europe has been good for Ireland.

But there was no euphoria, even optimism, in the Yes majority.

Fianna Fail did well in the campaign. Party leader Micheal Martin saw off a challenge to his authority from the then deputy leader, Eamon O Cuiv.

Mr Martin also made some good speeches and did well on radio and television debates.

He also put country before party, avoiding the temptation to play the populist card and add to the Government’s difficulties.

Sinn Fein raised is profile as a party. So did the United Left Alliance TDs. Dublin Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, who replaced Joe Higgins TD in the European parliament, gained considerable recognition.

Nevertheless they lost the battle.

They had advocated a No vote at a time of austerity.

They warned that austerity would worsen if the treaty was accepted.

It was a powerful message.

But it was repudiated by a majority of voters in the face of the equally powerful message that our chances of securing a second bailout would be severely damaged if we voted No.

And so we move on. The referendum is history.