Tuesday, 21 April 2009

No room at Liberty Hall for Libertas

The Irish Times has reported that Libertas has been denied use of a room in Liberty Hall by SIPTU, an Irish Union. Libertas had planned to launch its election campaign in Dublin with its candidate, Caroline Simons, but SIPTU refused to let Libertas use the room because:

1. When the room was booked, there was no indication given that it would be used for the Libertas launch.

2. Because it did not agree with SIPTU's policies (I haven't read what SIPTU's policies exactly are in this area).

Libertas' response?:

“This extraordinary and last-minute U-turn by the authorities at Liberty Hall raises very interesting questions. Caroline Simons spent a large portion of her career working with the trade union movement to secure equality for women. She adopted the same position on the Lisbon Treaty as an overwhelming majority of trade union members.”

For SIPTU's part, it suspects that the whole thing was a stunt, and claims that the purpose of the booking was not given to them:

"The union said the room was booked by a person who was a Siptu shop steward, but who gave no indication that it would be used by Libertas for the launch of Ms Simons’s campaign.

If it had known the purpose of the meeting, permission would never have been granted. “We suspect that this was a stunt from the beginning,” said a spokesman."

Which makes me wonder... It must be hard being populist with tax-cutting rhetoric in a country that is facing a big deficit and needs to raise taxes (indeed, the public discussion is on how to make tax hikes fairer rather than questioning the need for more taxation), so could this be an attempt to set up a situation to make Libertas seem like the underdogs? Either that or they or utterly incompetent when it comes to filling out forms or communicating their intentions to others - they've failed to get enough support to be eligible for EU funding, they've failed to get enough signatures in time to be registered for the elections in Germany, and now they've failed to properly go about booking a venue for their campaign launch...? Of course, SIPTU would have denied them access anyway, but surely they should have told SIPTU what they were planning. Unless SIPTU didn't make it clear what information it required for room bookings - though you'd think that union members would know what would be permitted.

And Caroline Simons?

She launched her campaign by (from the article) criticising the EU for:

1. generating 80% of Ireland's laws (this figure seems to get bigger every time, does anyone know where I can find information on this?).

2. Costing €130 billion each year.

3. The threat to Ireland's corporation tax - for proof of this threat, Angela Merkel's comment that Ireland's corporation tax needs to be revisited was cited (though, my impression was that this would have been part of any bail-out of Ireland by Germany. And I thought the citation for the comment was just a German official, though Simons may have been referring to something else - can anyone point me anything that backs up her point? Anyway, if Germany wants it changed, then that's Germany's policy towards Ireland, not an EU policy - and in any case, Ireland retains a veto under the Lisbon Treaty in such matters). Simons is reported to view this as: "the greatest threat to Ireland’s independence".

4. The institutions waste money - the money the EP has spent on upgrading their fitness facilities, etc. was highlighted.

Though it was repeated that Libertas is not Eurosceptic, no alternative vision of the EU was put forward (or reported), and there was no reason given why they think the EU is necessary. I'm not sure how well their rhetoric will go down - they seem to be running a very British-style anti-Brussels campaign about footing the bill and not getting anything in return ("What do we get here? The bill."). I don't think that that line of argument will be very successful when everywhere you look there are billboards saying that "This [infrastructure project] was jointly funded by the EU", and the general consensus is (and the fact is), that Ireland has been a net beneficiary of the EU.

If the money is being misspent (and I mean the overall EU budget here), then does Libertas have a budget policy? Or will it have one?


  1. Just a quick comment on EU legislation: The greatest group is probably connected to agriculture (because it is a plan economy of sorts); technical standards affecting certain businesses; norms pertianing to external trade (anti-dumping measures and the like).

    Regulations direct, besides the CAP, also the other great consumer of EU funds, cohesion policy.

    Directives are transformed into national law, with or without domestic additions (subtractions). Most of them concern businesses in the first place.

    The number of norms directly affecting 'the lives of ordinary citizens' are comparatively small, because most of the areas are not part of EU legislative competences.

    Without further study, I would not want to venture a guess as to percentages, but given the background I would say that the illusion created by citing high percentages as directly concerning citizens are just that, illusions (based on certain motives).

  2. And regulations/laws governing the single market can only really be legitimately made at the European level anyway.

  3. I had to rush, so here an additonal thought: There are areas which concern ordinary citizens directly; the euro for one.

    Less direct is the influence of standards, based on health and consumer interests, although the firms are the ones which have to adapt.

    But there are groups of people who would be worse off without EU legislation. By its very nature it covers (far from perfectly) cross-border situations.

    Other forums have worked with these questions, but (even) less effectively. So people, jobseekers, their families etc. in other EU member states are generally better off because of the EU.