Just when I thought about ‘Yes’

The European Union desperately needs a constitution. That is something that all europhiles and eurosceptics should agree on.

The simple reason for this is that nobody understands what the EU is actually for. There are six treaties, big treaties, going back to the Treaty of Paris in 1951 that established the European Coal and Steel Community that make up the texts by which the EU can be understood. So it can’t be.

You can’t read one treaty without reference to others. Even an attempt to delve into the Maastrict Treaty, for example, leads to references to other treaties, judgements and procedures that very few sane people would ever bother their heads following.

What was required, it was widely agreed, was to condense all this in to one little book, where the principles of the EU, what it is actually for and what powers it should have would be summarised so that the people of Europe would be able to understand it.

And so we have the European Constitution. Does it do what it says on the tin?

No, not really.

It’s too long. And it’s not just a summary of the other treaties – it is a new treaty in itself.

As someone who opposed the recent treaties (Amsterdam, Maastrict and Nice) you would imagine that I would be opposed to this constitution because it includes all of the provisions of those treaties.

Well, I don’t because the Irish people voted for these treaties and there is no point in rehashing the old debates over and over again. Especially as the old debates are much the same as the new debates.

The constitution could give us a starting point, a clear picture of where we are now. That is why I am inclined to support it. But I am open to the idea that a newer and shorter constitution could do the job better. Just when I was thinking about a ‘yes’ it’s going to be ‘no’. Typical.

Like most other people I haven’t read the constitution. I have read the opening few pages, I have the summary and I have listened to the debate in the media. Most people won’t ever read the minutae. They will make their minds up on the main points.

People who are opposed to this constitution should make clear that they are not against the principle of having a constitution. Otherwise, people, we won’t know what the hell we are talking about.

Let’s have the vote

Some of the opponents of the European Constitution are saying that there is no point in having a referendum here as the French and Dutch have rejected it.

That is totally undemocratic. Since when did the French electorate have the right to decide things in Ireland?

It is true that if one country rejects the constitution, it cannot be ratified. But what happens after a failure to ratify is that negotiations start again. If we don’t have a referendum, we will be sending negotiators there with no idea what the Irish think of the constitution.

A referendum is always a learning process. We don’t need other people making our minds up for us.