The fallacy of democracy


News out of Ireland this week is that it is undemocratic to be given a vote on the future of your country.

Declan Ganley - whoever he is
Declan Ganley - whoever he is.

Declan Ganley, a millionaire businessman whose opposition to the Lisbon Treaty saw him become a TV star along the lines of X-Factor or something, said: “The Irish people had a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. They voted No. A higher percentage of the electorate voted no than voted for Barack Obama in the United States of America. No one’s suggesting he should run for re-election next month.”

Cute quote.

The argument is that once you vote on something, that’s it.  No more votes.  “No” means no.  Of course it hasn’t worked this way in the past as Deco and his fellow No to Lisbon-ites well know.

Divorce and Divorce II

In 1986, when Ireland was asked to vote on the existing prohibition of divorce, the country overwhelmingly rejected it by 63% to 36%; almost 2-to-1.  Rather “undemocratically” we were all asked to vote again on the same issue nine years later since the re-elected Fine Gale government of the time refused to accept the previous will of the Irish people.  That time the vote was carried by a margin of 9,000 votes or 0.5%.

I wonder how many people who were happy to be able to get a second chance to vote “yes” to divorce in 1995 are now crying foul over Lisbon II?

In 1983 the country enforced a constitutional ban on abortion that leaves Ireland in the company of the likes of Chile, El Salvador, Malta and Nicaragua as places with outright bans. Isn’t it about time we revisited that issue now? Or does “no” still mean no in this case?  I’m confused.

How about in a case where Northern Ireland has a referendum on the unification of the island of Ireland – if the answer was “no” would that be the final time we’d vote on that?  Would Sinn Féin (steadfast opponents of Lisbon II) concur to a second vote in that instance?

Unqualified voters

Divorce and abortion are social issues that everybody can relate to.  The Lisbon Treaty is a vague and complex document (seemingly open to no end of interpretations) of which a large number of people have – understandably – insufficient understanding.  It’s probably fair to say that a lot of people should be considered unqualified to vote on Lisbon given that lack of understanding.

Look how easy it is to manipulate those who are ignorant by scaring them with groundless pap such as that voting “no” will lead to a loss of jobs and isolation or that voting “yes” will lead to abortion, conscription to a European army (they’ve been wheeling that one out since 1973) and a minimum wage of €1.84 an hour.  How is that democratic?

Democracy in action

Ganley’s complaint that “no” means no is a nice catchphrase when the re-vote doesn’t suit your agenda.  It would be great if democracy was perfect but of course it isn’t.  It is tainted by one side or the other having more charismatic spokespeople, more funding, better media coverage, or just being superior at using the truth more economically.  It’s a bit imperfect, like the justice system I suppose – and that’s why we have retrials.

If we have a referendum every day and nobody is excluded from voting then this is democracy in action.  The result will always be the will of the people.  I have no problem with this.

I elected someone to vote for me

I’m all for a Constitution as it helps provide a country with a legal and moral framework.  But I don’t want to have to spend a Friday afternoon voting on a document that I will never truly understand.  I think the government should pass legislation like this without having to bother me about it.  It’s not like it fundamentally changes the core principles of the state such as neutrality, abortion or economic autonomy.  Right?

Or isn’t anyone sure yet?

8 thoughts on “The fallacy of democracy

  1. Mind changing is surely the underpinning principle behind democracy.
    In the UK we get a chance to pick a whole new government every four years or so.. and it’s great. We can completely change our minds if we want to.
    I’m not saying that voting “no” to Lisbon was a bit like shooting yerselves in the foot or anything.. but isn’t it great that they give you a chance to reconsider. It’s not like you HAVE to change your mind.

    1. Absolutely. I think the complaints over the re-run is more to do with people’s lack of faith in democracy than anything else – i.e. we’re not convinced that the rest of the electorate are going to vote the way we want them to.

  2. Pleace vote for democracy and against the treaty of lisbon

    Dear irish people!

    Pleace stop the treaty of lisbon! Is is antidemocartic, militaristic, antisocial. The disadvantages are much bigger, than the advantages. The EU can live with its actuell laws. They should only be changed into a democratic direction. With the treaty of lisbon, the european council is able to change this treaty in great parts without asking the parliament. This is nearly the same law, which mades the nationl- rassistic- party of Germany so powerfull in our country in the year 1933. Our basic law (the german constitution) and all other european constitutions should not be replaced by the treaty of lisbon. But the new treaty tries to bring all right- sytstems in a lower level than the new european right. Here is my informationpage: . When you have some more english information, pleace send me a link or text or write it into the visitors book of my page. And pleace spread this text all over Ireland.

    In the hope in your activities for a better Europe, Felix Staratschek, Freiligrathstr. 2, D- 42477 Radevormwald (Germany)

  3. You know what is really, really fascinating? I only throw this in because you mentioned NI. NI has never had a vote on abortion- but it’s illegal here, simply because it’s illegal in the rest of Ireland. So even though NI is part of the UK, where abortion is legal, we do not adhere to that. Completely and utterly ridiculous and unexplainable, isn’t it?
    Then there’s the other issue of NI not being able to vote in UK general elections, despite the fact the UK government and prime minister will govern NI. Honestly, democracy does not exist in this tiny little country.

    1. Well the point is highlighted … democracy is only granted as far as it is allowed by those we democratically elect. Say a majority of people wanted to have the legal age for sexual intercourse lowered to 15 – would we ever be allowed vote on it?

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