The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions
BHHRG was able to observe several polling stations on the day of the poll in County Dublin. The principal point of interest was the introduction of a new electronic voting system. Voters present themselves at a desk, as would be customary for any normal vote, and are then issued with a ticket which they take and present to someone sitting next to the voting machine. This enables them to go behind it and cast their vote. At the beginning of the voting day, a print-out is taken showing that the chip in each voting machine registers zero. Equally, at the end of the day, a print-out is again taken, this time showing the number of votes cast at each voting station, but not the way they were cast.
The ground having been laid, the way was open for a campaign to take place in which the Yes campaign had massive predominance over the No. Literally the whole of establishment Ireland weighed in to support the Yes campaign against the No. The No camp, by contrast, was run essentially by citizens’ groups. The imbalance was clearest in the funding given to each side. The Yes probably spent 20 times more than the No: its total expenditure was reportedly at least €1.68 million. Against this, the No campaign spent approximately €170,500. The Yes figure included the following expenditure: Fianna Fáil, the governing party, spent €500,000; IBEC, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, €500,000; Fine Gael, the opposition party, spent €150,000, also for a Yes; the Progressive Democrats, a governing party, spent €125,000; The Irish Alliance for Europe, €100,000; the Irish Farmers’ Association, €150,000; the International Financial Services Centre, €25,000; the Labour Party €25,000; the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, €100,000. On top of this, the Government of Ireland spent €750,000 and Irish Euro MP, Pat Cox, president of the European Parliament, spent c. €80,000 on a Yes campaign bus. By contrast, the “No to Nice” campaign spent no more than € 120,000.
The Irish and European political classes clearly received a considerable shock when the Irish voted No to Nice in June 2001. Dublin decided almost immediately to prepare the ground for a new referendum. Indeed, the determination of the political class as a whole to force Nice through is evidenced by the fact that both of the main political parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, campaigned for a yes vote. Like political classes across Europe, the desire for unaccountable power in Ireland is great enough to unite all sides in pressing for ever close European integration. The preparations for the second referendum were minutely laid. The first change was radically to overhaul the role of the Referendum Commission which is responsible for running referendums in Ireland. That Commission had been created in 1998, following an appeal to the country’s Supreme Court in 1995 by the Green Party Member of the European Parliament, Patricia McKenna.
A report on the second Irish Referendum on the Nice Treaty
HITS: 1882 | 5-06-2002, 06:40 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Ireland , PR and human rights, Politics
On 19th October, the Republic of Ireland held a second referendum on the Nice treaty. That treaty, signed at Nice in December 2000, restructures the European Union, ostensibly with the aim of permitting the accession of 10 new member states in 2004. The first Irish referendum on Nice, which had been held in June 2001, had produced a clear negative result, to which the Irish government reacted by telling the other EU member states to press ahead with their ratification processes. This they duly did, and so when the Irish government put the same treaty before the Irish electorate a second time, a fait accompli had been created, in which Ireland was the only country not to have ratified the text. All other EU states ratified the treaty through parliamentary means. It is a sad reflection on the state of democracy in Europe that the only country to have held a democratic vote on this latest stage in the EU integration process should have deliberately ignored the results of a perfectly legitimate vote in 2001, only to submit the text again a year later. It goes without saying that referendums which produce Yes results are never run a second time.