For a few weeks there in late spring it looked like the future of the global economy rested in our smutty little mitts. Dave Johnson takes a biting look at the morning after the night before the recent euro referendum and concludes after a sordid affair like that no one is looking good.
And so begins our national walk of shame, the morning after the night before. Our rank beer-stained clothes offend even the pigeons, our hair a greasy Jedward, one of our shoes abandoned along the way as we hold the other defensively like it’s Sophie’s chosen child as we stumble back to our grubby little bedsit to try and scrub away the memory of what we actually just did, but try as hard as we might we cannot get away from the repetitive drumbeat of memory at the back of our head crying out “Ja! Ja! Ja!” in frenzied ecstasy, and we’re forced to stop suddenly to throw-up in our mouth.
None of us, Yes, No or Couldn’t Care Less, have anything to be proud of today.
We are used to vacuous campaigns, with mile after mile of lamppost covered with the rictus grins of the latest scions of our dynastic clans eager to take up the mantle of their dearly departed parents, pleading for your Number 1 with no better reason to offer than your daddy voted for theirs, but a referendum is supposed to be about ideas, not individuals, about how we choose to live together in a society bound together by a common set of agreed principles embodied in the constitution, about matters of import far beyond the parish pump. What we have witnessed instead was a campaign of fear and misdirection where we’ve been lied to and bullied, cajoled and coerced, and with the disdain shown to the electorate by parties on all sides it’s no wonder that half of us chose “Pass” when the question came our way.
“When Enda met Gerry” was the early narrative constructed by the media and yet, in a master-stroke worthy of Beckett, Enda never actually turned up to the gig, his chair as empty as it was during the election. When the media weren’t parading Sinn Féin as the voice of the No campaign in a calculated attempt to frighten the middle-classes, “balance” to the omnipresent regurgitation of government spin was provided by a bewildering succession of imported right-wing europhobes, each more offensive than the next, so that by the time Declan Ganley emerged from whatever warehouse he’s stored in between EU votes, his dose of bizarre ultra-capitalist libertarian-federalism almost sounded reasonable. Almost. While the media will crow triumphantly about the resurgence of Fianna Fáil, the truth is that Ganley did more for the Yes campaign than Micheál Martin ever did.
The Ministry of Truth was hard at work during this campaign, “Austerity” became “Stability”, “Poverty” is now “Growth”, “Schadenfreude” is “Confidence”, everything boiled down to tangential and meaningless soundbites that shied away from tackling the complexities in favour of simplistic sloganeering and obfuscating scaremongering. We had open racism and “reds under the beds” from government ministers, threats of punishment beatings in the budget and the spectre of no money left to pay the teachers and nurses (yet it seems there will always be money to pay the bondholders), and nowhere was the superficiality of the campaign more obvious than in the succession of Groundhog Day debates with the panelists determined by a wheel of fortune on which only the same dozen names appeared, Eamon and Gerry, Mary-Lou and Micheál, Declan and Joan, Paul and Lucinda, appearing opposite each other in almost every combination like the ten-season run of Friends where by the end everyone has slept with everyone else and we all just desperately want the pain to end.
This Treaty was never about jobs, confidence, the Euro or investment or any of the other tags stapled on to it, and a No vote wouldn’t have ended the cuts, or poverty or austerity. All we’ve done with the vote is say “yes please” to future teutonic beatings, the scale of which will be determined at a later date, if we don’t get our house in order to the satisfaction of Berlin. However as long as the Government continues to prioritise paying foreign bondholders over the needs of the citizenry, the financial targets in the Treaty are going to be impossible to meet without further drastic measures.
Whether they were deliberately excluded or simply were unable to articulate their message in a way that resonated with the public, the left needs to take a long hard look at itself and figure out how Adams and Ganley managed to dominate this campaign. While the results clearly point to a divisive class struggle at the heart of urban Ireland, the tale already being spun is that Sinn Féin, and not the Left, now speaks for the working-class. While Sinn Féin would argue that they are the new left, their record in government in the North suggests otherwise. As Labour have amply demonstrated it is easy to talk the talk in opposition, it’s what you do with power once you have it that matters.
The Yes side deceived through fear, the No side was fractured and ineffectual, and with half the electorate not bothering to show up, 30% of the country has given the government a mandate to exploit the most vulnerable to suit the needs of the elite, all in the name of “Stability”.Scrub as hard as we like, none of us come out of this smelling of roses.