Some Just Don’t Want To Be Good Europeans

The small Italian independent state of San Marino shunned the prospect of joining the EU, when asked to vote in a referendum on Sunday the 20th October last. That republic with an electorate of just 32,448 gave the thumbs down when they just did not vote. A story’s told of Frank Cluskey, a former T.D. MEP and Labour Party Leader, when he was asked why he was not elected, replied with the simple answer “Cause I didn’t get enough votes”. Well that’s what happened to this referendum. It just didn’t get enough votes.

With a turnout of 40.5 per cent. The Yes voters won a narrow majority of the popular vote at 50.3 per cent. Not good enough. The constitution required that for the referendum to pass, a minimum of 32 per cent of all registered electors must vote in favour for the proposal to be accepted.  So with 20per cent of electors saying yes those seeking change were shy 12 per cent. The failure to achieve a win must be a surprise as the referendum was called by public demand. A lot of noise with little clout.

There were two referendums for San Marino to decide on that day. The second asked, should Employee Salaries be re-valued at the same rate as Government inflation. Yes, that one passed with 36 per cent of the electorate voting for it.

So electors when faced with two questions seem to be able to distinguish between the issues. Which suggests voters are much the same throughout the world. The poor turnout at  ballot boxes around the developed world is a cause of real concern for those who seek a democratic society, reflective of the entire community. A lot of work across Europe is required to up the voter turnout in next year’s parliament elections. Maybe we need to open up two debates here in Ireland One to consider should voting be compulsory, the other, if we might amend the constitution making it a requirement that a threshold be set for the minimum numbers of voters required to make changes to our constitution.

Subs Play In Europe

Most think the European elections, held every five years, elect those whom they wish to represent them in that parliament. The reality is somewhat different in practice. Of the three members elected in 2010, just one with their name on the posters continues to serve.

Proinsias De Rossa who was first elected as a Workers Party representative in 1989, resigned the seat in 1992 to ultimately lead his party into government was at that time replaced by Des Geraghty. Representing the Labour Party, DeRossa returned to the European parliament in 1999. He retired in 2011 when he was replaced by his party’s substitute Emer Costello. Joe Higgins (SP) having contested each election since 1999, was eventually elected in 2009 and replaced by a second sub Paul Murphy. Gay Mitchell (FG) first elected in 2004 tells us he will not be seeking re-election next year. While Mitchell will, of the three elected in 2009 be the only one to serve out their full term. He did make the effort to leave Europe when he unsuccessfully contested the Presidential Election.

When we elect an MEP, we also elect a substitute. This person is the automatic replacement should the member elected vacate the office. Since 1979 Dublin has directly elected 27 people as MEPs. On nine occasions over that time substitution has occurred. In some cases the person elected has been replaced twice. In others the first sub has declined to serve.

Political parties hold selection conventions to decide who their candidate(s) will be and who will be substitute. The problem is that none of us look to see just who the sub is for the candidate we are electing. So we can end up with a total unknown who has no elected or front line political experience.

It may be time to fess up and put the whole panel on the programme. Just like in a football match, we ought to know who we are electing to be our representatives and not leave it to those in the back room.