It was good to get away from the goldfish bowl of Leinster House last night and knock on doors around Dún Laoghaire, seeking a Yes vote.
There's nothing more valuable than direct feedback from people on their doorstep. Last Friday, I was getting a very strong Yes vote, but last night it was more 2/3 Yes, 1/3 No. Coming from the heart of a constituency that has voted consistently in favour of every European Treaty since 1973 that's worrying. I suspect it's still all to play for at this stage.
People are concerned at the defence aspects of the Treaty and I can't blame them. That phrase about 'improving military capabilities' is a hard one to swallow, and I can understand the concerns expressed to me about this issue. In response I've stated that the European Union has been the most successful peace project that Europe has seen in the twentieth century, and that this can and should continue. I believe the EU force in Chad is a force for good in a volatile region. I believe that on balance, the Treaty is a good one. Did the EU arms industry get the fingerprints on the Treaty? Yes, I think they did, but on balance the emphasis on conflict prevention and peace-keeping trumps their lobbying.
One women mentioned to me her concern about Michael O'Leary's contribution to the Lisbon Debate, and I have to say my heart sank when I heard that he was entering the fray. With friends like that... It is now wonder that the CAEUC are putting up 'No to Ryanair Health Care' posters around town. Michael, go easy. (Although one side of me is looking forward to the Michael O'Leary vs. Declan Ganley debate tomorrow.)
Actually, I felt the most thoughtful observation of the evening came from a women who expressed concern at the lack of respect from each camp for the other side. It is true - the worst thing you can do is blindly criticise the other side, without understanding their motives or their reasons for campaigning.
That's why I did a little bit of archive searching on Richard Greene, spokesperson for the Cóir campaign. I got a shiver down my spine when I saw that Cóir is using a quote from my blog on their homepage where I had stated that "Cóir hit the ground running, the monkeys worked." I remember Richard Greene from his period in the Green Party, and I had a look through the Irish Times digital archive to see where he is coming from.
One of my memories is of him telling a great environmental campaigner Mary O'Donnell from West Cork to shut up and sit down at a Green Party Conference, and I also remember him as holding anti-Traveller views. I had forgotten that he had been In Fianna Fáil before he joined the Greens and that he also set up his own political party in the mid 1990s. In the late 1980's he campaigned against the extradition of those who conspired to murder the Northern Secretary Tom King.
In 1990 he was on the executive of Irish National Congress, the aims of which were to seek Irish freedom, unity and peace, seek British withdrawal from Northern Ireland, full access to Irish culture and neutrality. Shortly afterwards he joined the Green Party and was elected in the 1991 local elections.
Later that year, when The Rape Crisis Centre expressed concern about their lack of funding he wrote to the Irish Times to state that "funding for the Rape Crisis Centre above that authorised by the Minister was not a priority for the Eastern Health Board."
In 1992 he wrote to the papers to state his concern that Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution might be up for ‘barter’, and accused the British of occupying part of the National territory. Later that year he was reported as having called for street demonstrations against the ‘murderous’ decision of the Supreme Court in (an) abortion case. By this stage Trevor Sargent stated that “It is no secret that Mr. Greene is marching to a different tune to the other Green Party Councillors, and has put down motions on Travellers and 1916 which have embarrassed them." In March of that year he was writing to the Irish Times seeking to undo the ‘evil wrought by these supposedly learned judges.” He wasn't above picketing judges' home, either. In April he resigned from the Green Party, claiming it was a "totally dangerous totalitarian party which did not allow its members free speech."
Later that year he became Chairman of the Friends of Youth Defence, and later that year of the National Right to Life Federation. He also appeared as the head of the Christian Centrist Party, and ran unsuccessfully in Dublin South. At their candidate launch their chairman Matt Ascough stated that the party “takes its principles when making legislation from the Gospels.”
In 1993 he tried to stop then Minister Howlin from launching an AIDS education ad that contained the “erroneous message that the use of condoms would help to reduce the spread of AIDS." He lost a Court Action. In that year he also supported all rezonings on Dublin County Council.
In 1994 he was identified as the head of a new political party Muintir na hEireann. At the time of the Maastricht Treaty he stated “On June the Second a death occurred. Maastricht died. Maastricht is going to be buried on June 18th. We beat the Danes in 1014, and we can do it again on June 18th”.
Later that year he wrote to the papers, concerned that "population control lobbyists have penetrated the UN’s policy-making committees. More people means more economic activity and more markets, and less people obviously means less markets and declining economic activity."
In a subsequent letter wearing his hat as Chairman of Muintir na hEirinn he viewed Youth Defence as "the great hope and future of the pro-life movement in this country …(we) continue to support Youth Defence in order to help it become even more effective in the struggle to keep the evil of abortion out of Ireland."
In 1995 wearing his anti-divorce hat he demanded that Jewish members of the Oireachtas be sensitive to the majority Christian view in the Country.
Cóir's spokesperson Richard Greene has used various political parties to further his nationalistic, anti-traveller, pro-life, right-wing views. He is a serial rezoner and party joiner. It is important that we know about his chequered past.
Cóir states that their concerns are wages, jobs and taxes.I don't believe that this is the case and I believe they should state where their real interest lies. Last year the mask slipped when they issued a leaflet claiming that under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Court and the Charter of Fundamental Rights could force Ireland to change its laws on issues such as prostitution, abortion, drugs and euthanasia. They also warned of changes in "how we raise and educate our children".
Tellingly under the "Who we are" section of Cóir's website they neglects to give the names of anyone in their organisation. I suspect that Mr. Greene is at the heart of the Cóir project.