Referendum Retrospect: Who Now are the Men of Violence?
Date:1986
Author:Derry Kelleher
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Subjects: Single European Act Referendum, 1987

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

27th June 2011

This document, published by Derry Kelleher is an interesting critique of the referendum regarding the Single European Act  on 26 May 1987 . Kelleher had a varied political career, being a member of the Fianna Éireann, the IRA, the Cork Socialist Party, the Connolly Association, the Labour Party, then Official Sinn Féin - where he was at one-point a party Vice-President, and subsequently rejoined the Labour Party. This pamphlet was issued during the latter period.

The pamphlet focusses on the SEA and is far too detailed to give any more than a superficial overview in a short post like this. Suffice it to say that the Introduction argues that…

… The referendum disclosed an appalling lack of public morality manifested in newspeak, double think, evasiveness,, and downright lies by the Press, RTE, the Government Information Services, the Council of the European Movement, parliamentary wings of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats, the pro-Fine Gael (or POOR LAW RELIEF) faction of the Labour Party, the Democratic Socialist [sic] Party, and the Confederation of Irish Industry.

It continues:

The issue was simple, singular and specific, namely whether or not to adjust the SEA to bring it into conformity with the Irish Constitution, so as to copper-fasten Irish sovereignty in the sphere of foreign policy, and thus, inter-alia, our right to declare for neutrality with reference ot any future international conflict, but specifically one between the powers represented by the Warsaw Pact and NATO.

And it argues that:

In short, all that was required was the insertion in the SEA of a clause such as the following, drafted by the Constitutional Rights Campaign: Nothing in the SEA shall affect Ireland’s freedom to pursue its independent policies in relation to foreign affairs, security, defence and other vital matters. In the event of conflict the Irish Constitution will take precedence over any provision of the SEA.

It further posits:

There was, thus, no need for the costly referendum imposing an additional burden on the already over-burdened tax-payer. This was the fundamental and only real issue involved. This is what, effectively Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, TD, called ‘abnormal, complex, damaging and dangerous’ in his attack on the Supreme Court’s finding that the SEA was contrary to the Irish Constitution. Because the inclusion o fthis brief clause in the SEA would be sufficient to nullify the Supreme Court’s decision. Fitzgerald’s clam was therefore, sheer perfidy. This fact show’s how reprehensible was the Taoiseach’s, Mr. Haughey, assertion, ‘There is no going back at this stage - no question of renegotiation’. Mr. Haughey knew this to be untrue, but it was the price he had to pay to Fine Gael for guaranteeing his government’s stability. Power at any cost - not even gaining the whole world, but still suffering the loss of his soul for a mess of pottage.

The remainder of the document is a readable, albeit eclectic, journey through a range of topics, some of which only tangentially reference the SEA. For examples on pp.14-15 there is a striking attack on Conor Cruise O’Brien and Section 31. On page 16 there is a reproduction of text from The United Irishman [newspaper of Sinn Féin and later Official Sinn Féin] of September 1968. More obviously neutrality and other issues are dealt with in some detail.


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