Oi! Heaney! NO!

I’ve just put this up over on Cedar Lounge Revolution, but I’m that annoyed that I’m putting it up here too.

Today’s Observer has a story reporting Seamus Heaney’s conviction that a no vote in the Lisbon Treaty would mean that the people of the Republic will have “lost ourselves in the modern world”. Now I’m not really sure what that is actually supposed to mean, so back to Heaney.

Heaney said the loss for Ireland from a “no” vote was “inestimable”. He said: “I was in Italy when the first referendum came in, and I was distressed for Ireland in Europe because of the kind of refusal of commitment after decades of benefit. It is inestimable, the loss of influence, status and trust that occurred with a ‘no’ vote: it is palpable and real.

Ah. So the fact that the Republic has benefited from membership of the EU in terms of structural funds and the like means that it should forever do whatever the people in Brussels want. Now, we may think that there is a democratic deficit in the EU, that important decisions about our futures are being made by unelected and appointed officials (many of whom are running from their incompetence or corruption at home), that the choices open to us have been circumscribed by undemocratic EU rules designed to benefit capitalism, and that the citizens of the states of the EU were with one exception denied an opportunity to vote on the Treaty by the political and bureaucratic elite of the EU. But that would be because we lack the necessary poetic vision to understand what is really at stake.

Europe was “more than a bureaucracy, it’s an ideal,” he said. “The word ‘Europe’ is one of the first cultural underpinnings to our lives in this part of the globe. It’s for Greece, Italy, Rome, England, France that I feel it.” He also dismissed claims that the Lisbon Treaty would end Irish sovereignty and see the republic absorbed into a European super-state.
Asked if Europe was as important for him culturally as it was economically, Heaney said: “I think it’s slightly more important, not only in terms of culture but in terms of credit, in terms of meaning.

So apparently European civilisation – thousands of years of philosophy, political thought, law, science, art, literature, technology, religion, and the rest – has been reduced to a proposed new set of rules on how to govern an amalgam of states in a mere part of Europe. If we reject it, then we reject our cultural inheritance. Nonsense. As I’m sure the greatest of the Russian poets Pushkin and others from that part of Europe would agree. Clearly our Nobel-winning poet needs refresher courses in basic geography and history.

A lesson in the basic principles of democracy – perhaps Europe’s greatest gift to the world – might also prove useful.

“The reasons for voting ‘no’ are manufactured, on the whole. And if it’s ‘no’ again, I think we have lost ourselves in the modern world.”

Did the No campaign manufacture the fact that those proposing this Treaty have openly admitted that their aim in doing so was to avoid having referenda that might cause them trouble in countries like France and Denmark? Did the No campaign make the decision to deny the citizens of Europe a free vote, a chance to decide for themselves? Whatever about the issues of this Treaty for the Republic of Ireland, is there a better reason for voting ‘NO’ than the fact that the people have been denied a say? If Heaney is so concerned about the peoples of Europe, perhaps he might have taken this into account when considering the whole topic. And spared us his sentimental, apolitical, not to say ignorant nonsense.


10 Responses to “Oi! Heaney! NO!”

  1. Urban_Underclass Says:

    I am disappointed in Heaney, but not surprised, he is part of the establishment. I agree totally that we should vote no to give the rest of Europe a chance to vote on this.
    (Well I am mainly voting no because this treaty serves to further undermine worker’s rights in the EU),


  2. Garibaldy Says:

    I’d be voting No for the same reasons Rory if I lived in the Republic. It shows though that Heaney never stopped to think that perhaps those whose opinion he is so worried about might actually not want Lisbon passed, and that’s why they’ve been denied the opportunity.

  3. Colm Says:

    Ref ‘disappointment’, I think Urban_Underclass and Garibaldy, and others should get in touch with ‘realpolitik’ just as much as your professed belief that democratic rights are undermined by the EU bureaucracy.

    Did you listen to Declan Ganley yesterday, on RTE, wherein he conveyed his belief that ‘Ireland would have greater US inward investment’ if No was the Lisbon Treaty result? And this view he is punting in the Wall Street Journal, of last Friday. The new, improved, Murdoch-owned WSJ.

    So, if ‘the MIC candidate’, with his strong links to the Pentagon, thinks Lisbon is a bad idea, does that not give a pause, in the certainty that the treaty is undemocratic?

    Though there are ways in which those EU bureaucrats can be less than fully democratic, they are certainly more democratic than the more local varieties, in local and national government, in Northern Ireland and UK. And RoI doesn’t look any better (Thinking of Shell, Indaver, etc., etc., etc.)

    Worker’s Rights are better supported in EU than any other part of the planet; there is a continuing dynamic of struggle between MNCs and goverments. I feel happy that SOME class of democratic accountabilty is better than trusting in notions of culture and history, as defence against the Chevrons, Monsantos and all those very powerful others.

  4. Garibaldy Says:

    Hi Colm,

    I’m not at all sure that Heaney’s piece represents realpolitik. Instead, it’s a load of romantic nonsense. He is the one trusting in culture and history rather than democracy.

    Regarding your point about Ganley. Berlusconi and the neo-fascists supporting his government have signed the Treaty. Does that not give you pause for thought? I have to say that I don’t think that saying you shouldn’t support it because such and such does is a very helpful argument. At all. And can be used by both sides.

    I’m not really sure how your argument that the EU bureaucrats are more democratic is supposed to work to be honest. Local government officials are at least in theory responsible to directly elected politicians. The EU doesn’t quite work like that. It seems to be you are making the argument that they can be more progressive, rather than more democratic. That can certainly be true, and workers in Ireland have benefited from some EU legislation. But the EU is at heart in the interests of capital and not labour.

    The reason that workers’ rights are relatively well protected in the EU is because of the strength of its labour movement. For no other reason. As we have seen with the recent court judgments, the laws and rules of the EU prioritise the interests of capital over labour, and only the struggles of workers themselves can protect those rights. The Chevrons and the rest will use the EU’s rules to try and diminish workers’ rights if we let them.

  5. Colm Says:

    Re “Berlusconi and the neo-fascists supporting his government have signed the Treaty. Does that not give you pause for thought?”

    I contend that THAT is simply realpolitik, on their part. Their economic and political interests are served by the EU. They see that ‘they are closer to Berlin, than Boston’, to paraphrase the execrable ideas of Mary Harney. That they have these interests, does not exclude others, far to the left of them, from sharing interests, at that level.

    My point about these ‘real’ interests was applied to such as yourself, since you have alluded to “So apparently European civilisation – thousands of years of philosophy, political thought, law, science, art, literature, technology, religion, and the rest – has been reduced to a proposed new set of rules on how to govern an amalgam of states in a mere part of Europe. If we reject it, then we reject our cultural inheritance. Nonsense.”

    And, continuing on ‘real interest’, it seems to me that Rivada Networks, and the whole nine yards of American MIC manipulation is oppsed to MY interests, and yours, and that of every European citizen. Not to mention, those of most people on the planet.

  6. Colm Says:

    I should add, that a certain level. I don’t care tuppence if any given electorate of one of the smaller, and indeed peripheral, states of Europe decides to ‘opt out’.

    Which is what indeed Ireland is, and would be doing. That’s fine with me, it is democratic, but the corollary is of a lesser level of membership of the EU. And if the Irish electorate want that, then they should get that. As they say, ‘democracy is a terrible system, except for the alternatives’.

    There may be some lesson from the early history of USA, e.g. the discussions with Vermont, Rhode Island, and which others, in the 1790s. If Ireland wants to go that route, grand. Do it.

  7. Urban_Underclass Says:


    Realpolitik to me is being allowed join a trade union. Something I was not allowed do in many of the factories I have worked in here in Ireland. Realpolitik is having some say in and knowledge of who makes the laws that I must live under. This treaty endorses Ireland’s repressive labor laws. It adds another layer of faceless bureaucracy to the EU. It copper fastens forever the destruction of the Irish Fishing Industry.

    What in God’s name are the benefits of voting Yes except that a bunch of right-wing politicians in Ireland don’t end up with egg on their smooth, shiny, overfed faces? Who cares what the eurocrats think of us? If this treaty was put to an EU wide referendum I am sure it would lose.

  8. Garibaldy Says:


    I have no problem acknowledging that both right and left are divided on this treaty, and that it makes for strange bedfellows. That’s why after making the Berlusconi comment I pointed out that I didn’t think arguments about he does/does not support it so I won’t were of any value.

    The bit you quote from me was in response to Heaney’s introduction of the cultural argument. I think it is nonsense too.

    I don’t agree that the interests of US corporations are opposed to the interests of every European. There are plenty of Europeans whose economic well-being depends on their links to American corporations and finance. And many European multi-nationals too. Keeping American multi-nationals out isn’t much use if EU rules bar the state from playing much of a role in the economy (except when it is necessary to bail out finance capital of course).

    As for a lesser level of membership. The EU was set up according to certain rules. If it wants to change the rules, then fine. But that change should be made according to the rules at the time, not the future ones. In which case, a two-tier membership goes against the spirit of the whole thing.

    Urban Underclass,

    I’m inclined to agree with what you say.

  9. Tony Moroney Says:

    Any suggestion why wee Hendry is bigging up Heaney and the Yes side?

  10. Garibaldy Says:

    I can only think that he supports the Treaty himself. That would seem to me to fit with his general politics regarding the war on Iraq etc these days.

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