Lisbon: The Nation Devouring Hydra

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On July 15, The Irish Times published an opinion piece written by Green Party senator and spokeswoman, Déirdre de Búrca titled: “Lisbon Yes will make EU fit for global challenges.”  In it, she argues that the Lisbon Treaty is essential to empower the European Union so it can act effectively on the global scene.1

Her opinion was ratified by the Greens on July 18, when the party voted to officially endorse Lisbon.  After the vote, party president John Gormley said the Greens would support the treaty “vigorously.”2

While the Green Party does not speak for the Irish public, Senator Búrca’s article warrants a closer look since the arguments it contains are likely to resurface during the build up to the October vote when Ireland will again be asked to ratify the treaty it rejected last year.3

A Nation-Devouring Hydra?

The senator reveals the crux of her argumentation in favor of Lisbon in her article’s last paragraph, which states:

My support for the Lisbon Treaty is born out of a recognition that unless we as European citizens empower the Union to represent us internationally, to act as a broadly progressive force at a global level, we stand little chance of being able to positively influence and shape the rapidly changing world around us, or to tackle the very serious global challenges that confront us.4

However, this paragraph also reveals the main flaw in her reasoning.  She insists that EU empowerment will increase Irish representation on the international scene.  While there is little doubt that empowering Europe will give the EU more global weight, its effect on individuals swallowed up by so-called “European citizenship” will likely be to grant them less, and not more, say in issues that most affect them.5

This principle is easily grasped by comparing the lot of an employee at a small business and a mega corporation.  While the small business, by itself, may have little effect on the national economy, when bought out by a mega corporation, individual employees are certain to be denied any say in corporate decisions and thus lose what voice they may have had.

Likewise, any attempt to join national forces against global threats must first ensure that national individuality is maintained, not diluted.  This was well expressed by the great Catholic thinker, Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira.  In 1952, he wrote an article expressing concerns over a future European confederation that would level the continent of its national characteristics.  In it he stated:

Each nation can and should remain alive and defined, within the supranational structure.  It must maintain its limits, territory, government, language, customs and law.  It must keep its own national character… [opposing this reality] is certainly not acting according to the designs of God, Who created a natural order, in which the nation is an indestructible reality…[any international body] should be the protector of national independence, not a nation-devouring hydra.

Professor de Oliveira’s thought is entirely opposed to that of Senator Búrca, who claimed: “The EU represents a ‘higher-order’ political system, where nation states have chosen to pool some of their sovereignty in order to be better equipped to respond to these international challenges.” Her idea of “pooling sovereignty,” in fact, would water it down to the point of insignificance.  It would strip Ireland of its voice entirely.

She also argues that Europeans must “empower” the union so that it can “play a more constructive and effective role on the international stage.”  This would prevent the G8 from being replaced with a G2 in which “China and the US” would “carve the world up between them.”

However, if Ireland and other European countries are worried about losing sovereignty to US and Chinese hegemony, why should they wilfully surrender that same sovereignty to the EU?  It just does not make sense.

Forcing Abortion

Senator Búrca espouses another false notion, when she states:

…the Irish Government has secured a series of legal guarantees on Lisbon. These guarantees fully protect Ireland’s national autonomy in a number of sensitive policy areas…The guarantees are legally binding, and will be attached to the EU treaties by means of a protocol in the near future.

Certainly, the “sensitive policy areas” she references are abortion and other life issues.  In fact, 58% of those who voted “no” in the Lisbon Treaty’s first round opined that the treaty would make abortion more likely, whereas only 28% disagreed.  Furthermore, a full 74% of those believing a “yes” vote would make abortion more likely voted “no.”

However, the “guarantees” that Senator Búrca mentions do not guarantee anything.  Even if the protocol to which she refers becomes a reality, any prohibition of abortion would directly conflict with the EU’s Charter of Rights that is attached to Lisbon.

Thus, at any time, the European Court of Justice could invoke this Charter and impose abortion on the nation.  In short, as Cóir spokesman Richard Greene stated, “…the matter will still be in the hands of the European Court of Justice, not the Irish people…So we’re left with the same bad treaty that was rejected by the Irish people last year.”

Does No Mean No?

Senator Búrca also claims that Ireland will be able to protect its sovereignty by use of a “national veto.”  However, the events of the last several years have proven that when Europe wants something, it will not take no for an answer.  Could not the first vote on Lisbon be compared to a veto?  And before that, did not France reject the EU constitution, which was fundamentally the same document as the Lisbon Treaty?

Suspicions must be raised that any “national veto” used by Ireland would be subject to the same vote-until-you-get-it-right mentality.

Thus, Ireland must send a message to the EU that: “No means no!” or risk being subjected to the same bully tactics in the future.  It must protect its sovereignty against the nation-devouring hydra that the EU threatens to become.

Irish sovereignty was purchased at too high a price to do otherwise.


  2. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Catolicismo, February 1952. (Translation ours)
  4. These statistics are taken from a article found at:

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