Who’s the biggest bully?
Each side accuses the other of trying to scare voters ahead of Ireland’s referendum on the EU treaty on Thursday.
“No” groups have campaigned on issues ranging from abortion and euthanasia to taxation and Ireland’s military neutrality. They also say new decision-making mechanisms mean small states will lose influence and get trampled by the EU’s heavyweights.
The government’s response is to accuse treaty opponents of scaremongering by campaigning on emotive and extraneous issues that will not be affected by the treaty.
In some cases neutral voices are inclined to agree, with the Catholic archbishop of Dublin and referendum commission weighing in to say there is nothing in the treaty that threatens Ireland’s strict abortion and euthanasia laws.
The government warns of “dire consequences” for Ireland’s economy and diplomatic clout if a nation that has gained so much from EU support and subsidies is ungrateful enough to reject the treaty.
The “No” camp accuses the government of bullying, blackmail and exaggeration. Indeed a number of economists say that while a “Yes” vote would be best for future prosperity, rejection of the treaty is unlikely to have any severe repercussions.
So who is the biggest bully in the playground? Or is it just an inevitable flaw in referendums that they become a lightning rod for irrelevant issues and for politicians who don’t trust us to be able to debate the question we’re being asked?