Interview with Declan Ganley

Issue: 25 – May 2008
Interview with Declan Ganley
Declan Ganley was born in North London of Irish parents. The family moved back to Ireland when he was still a child. A successful entrepreneur, the Galway-based businessman shocked the Establishment by his strong opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, which he has eloquently argued is bad for Ireland and Irish business interests. His organisation Libertas has been actively campaigning for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the Treaty and he has been travelling the country to present their case on the issue to the Irish people.

What is Libertas?
Libertas was founded in 2006 and is committed to making the EU more democratic and accountable for the decisions it takes. Libertas has been following the evolution of the Lisbon Treaty and after seeing the final draft in 2007, decided to oppose it on the basis that it would weaken Irelands position in Europe, and do nothing to address the corruption and unaccountability of the EU.

Could Lisbon affect our tax rates?
Well, France has already said that it is committed to harmonising taxes within the EU, meaning that we would be obliged to pay the same high rates as them. Remember, low taxes have been great for the Irish economy but under Article 93 of the Treaty the European Court could rule that Irelands low tax rates are an unfair distortion of competition.

How will Lisbon affect Irelands influence within the EU?
Our voting weight on the European Council, if we say yes, its halved – we go down to 0.8 percent. They say make Ireland stronger, and we give away half our voting weight. Now, how does that work again? Its reduced by half. Germanys is going to be doubled. Frances is increased by sixty percent. Ours is halved.
We lose our Commissioner for five out of every fifteen years. For five years at a time we are not going to have a commissioner. Thats like a long term of a government.

Do you think there is any national consciousness of the fact that this is one of the most important decisions we will ever make?
No, not yet. But it is getting there, and it is going to be down to the media, to make sure the people understand that, because once we give these things up, if we do, and we give them up without having anybody to vote for or against to change things – which we do not get – there is no mechanism – ever – for us to get them back. Which is why I have started to point out that the seeds of the destruction of the European Union are in this treaty. Why? There is an article called article 50, which is for complete withdrawal from the Union, which is a right that every member state should absolutely have, but I would hope would never exercise, because that would be very bad for the European Union.

Article 50 says that you can withdraw. Now, you have to pay the European Union – theyll tell you how much money you owe to them and all of that stuff. Oh, and by the way, Europe can fine us, but we cant fine them. See whos really in charge here.

Article 50 means that a member state can withdraw. Now, bearing in mind how fundamentally anti-democratic this treaty is, just think about the highly unlikely scenario that we get a bad President of Europe. Im sure that would never happen, right? But lets just say that we were unlucky, and we got a bad President of Europe and a bad Foreign Minister of Europe, and that the scandals that are being covered up in Europe right now of very many millions of waste, fraud and abuse and embezzlement – lets say that those scandals become more widely and publicly known. Do you think that its going to be tempting for a political party in any number of member states to be opportunistic and say, this European Union is out of touch, out of control and we have no one that we can vote for or against – we should leave, and we are going to run a general election campaign on leaving the Union. Its extremely likely – and it will happen, probably next door. Its very possible that things could go very wrong and that some party could win an election on that commitment – to exercise Article 50, and leave – and there, because of the anti-democratic nature of this thing, it makes the likelihood of withdrawal from some member states high. So you could have Britain, leaving – Denmark, leaving – the Netherlands, leaving – Sweden, leaving – and a renting, a splitting of Europe again along some very old lines – and we cannot afford to go back there and have that happen. Its an enormous risk – which is why we have to recognise that Europe belongs to the close to half-a-billion people who are Europeans. That is what Europe is. Its not some small clique of elites in Brussels. It must be accountable to that close to half-a-billion people at the ballot box – thats democracy.

For all the reasons I have outlined, and more, we have to say no to this – even if it was just out of respect for the French and the Dutch – but for all of these reasons we have to say no.

By the way, what does Ireland get in this treaty that we dont already have? Nothing. Not a single thing. What kind of deal is that? So we are giving up massive power and influence. We surrender and subjugate ourselves to unaccountable leadership – we are going to have these people [travelling around the globe] purporting to represent us as European citizens – we open these back doors to taxation – we are having our voting weight halved in the European Council – we are losing our European Commissioner for five out of every fifteen years – and in return we get what? Nothing that we dont already have.

Why do you think there is such a national political consensus?
At every meeting that weve had, that is a question that everybody is asking. There is a huge sense of disappointment in our party political process here in Ireland, that there is no mainstream political party voice coming out against this thing. I think there is a degree of indolence going on, insofar as they do not want to rock the boat. I think that there is maybe even a little bit of intimidation. Some people seem to be awestruck or something by the attention that we are getting over this issue.

You have the gravy train factor as well.
Huge. Something that we will be breaking shortly, … information that we have received from an extremely reliable source says that there is currently a big scandal breaking in a locked room in Brussels, and there is extremely limited access to the information. It is the report on the MEP expense abuse scandal. It runs to tens of millions of euro apparently. There was a motion put down to disclose the contents of the report from the European Parliament, and many Irish MEPs voted to keep it covered. Theres information on

Theres a big cover-up going on. The EU hasnt had its accounts signed off by its own auditors for fourteen years. If they were in business theyd be struck off and jailed by now. If that was national government, they would have resigned. It would never have been allowed to go this long. Fourteen years, they havent had their accounts signed off for. There isnt a small business in Europe, there isnt a sweetshop that hasnt had its accounts signed off in fourteen years – and were supposed to give these people more power?
I mean, this is like debating how bad it is to have a nuclear bomb go off in your back garden – and actually having a rational debate over it. Well, you are exaggerating about the heat and the blast rate factor because it is not actually 9,400 degrees, its 9,300 degrees. Youre a liar!

Are we even having this discussion? Democracy is something that is not debatable. Democracy is very fragile in Europe. Its only been around, across Europe, since after the war. Its not debatable! If you are going to rule and make laws for the people, you have to make yourself accountable at the ballot box – or get lost! Thats why we have got to say no and send this thing back. If we say no this will be the third time that this package has been rejected. They will not be able to ignore it this time – and lets send Brian Cowen back with a mandate from the Irish people to say that this was a bad deal, they rejected it, we couldnt sell it, God knows we tried, we lied through our teeth to try and get this thing through. We need a better deal. And if he wont do that, lets make the 2009 European elections right across Europe be an issue of, ok, what is the future of Europe going to be? and lets force them to explain how the instruments of governance in Europe are going to be made more accountable. Europe does need a constitution. It needs to be successful. We cannot risk Europe failing, weve come too far. But taking it off the cliff, as this treaty does, is absolutely the wrong thing. The most pro-European thing that we can do is be pro the half-a-billion people of Europe, and we need to hand Europe back to them by saying no to this Lisbon Treaty.

Declan, we all see the Treaty as a failure, but what specifically would Libertas advocate, that would be acceptable?
For a start, I dont want Irelands voting weight reduced at the European Council. In fact, Id like to see it increased. So there. Lets start from that position. I certainly dont want it to be halved, while Germany is doubled and Frances is increased by sixty percent. Lets have an increase in our voting weight. We are a small member state, maybe it should be a little bigger to balance things out.

I want a tool to apply democratic accountability to those lawmakers in Brussels. If theres going to be a President of Europe and a Foreign Minister, let that person present themselves for election to the people of Europe – for us to vote them up or down, and be able to hold them accountable to us. I do not want Brussels, the policy makers and lawmakers to be unavoidably open to the enormous influence of lobbyists against the voices of the people. As it stands we have to go and get a million signatures to get our voices heard.

I want these tax back doors that are open to affect the overall tax situation and tax-competitiveness of Ireland made so that they really work. This veto [on tax] – its like trying to anchor a ship with a tiny piece of cotton thread. They say, well its tied to the dock – with a piece of dental floss. We need something thats going to really protect our tax competitiveness.

There are things in this treaty that I [personally] would like to see gone. For instance, Brussels gives itself the power and authority to intervene in even issues like children – to guarantee the physical an moral integrity in sporting issues especially with the young. So, Brussels is going to be the guarantor of my childrens moral standards in sporting and education functions? They are giving themselves that power. What are their morals? I need to know first. Are they the same as the ones that I want for my children? Are they going to be telling me, and setting down laws that my wife and I completely and fundamentally disagree with, for our children? Who the hell told them that they should have the right to reach down into my family and set moral standards, whatever their moral standards are, for my children? Get the hell out of my family! I dont want you in there. I dont know who you are. You never have to ask me for a vote. Stay away! There are things in there that are an absolute insult to our intelligence, and where there is massive overreach in this thing.

It is open to such massive and wide interpretation. This was McEvaddys point. He said, you could challenge every line of this thing. The US Constitution is thirteen A4 pages – its done them for 250 years.

McEvaddy said what we need to do is give them twenty blank sheets of paper and say make it fit on that first. Thats your first job, and make sure that everyone can understand and read it, and then we will look at it again. Thats your mission statement. The Larkin Declaration which set this whole thing off in train was supposed to bring Europe closer to its citizens. This does exactly the opposite. But, the question why the political parties are doing this, it boggles the mind.

Education. Vocational training, youth and sport. It says here, the Union shall contribute to the promotion of European sporting issues while taking account of the specific nature of the sport, its structures based on voluntary activity, and its social and educational function. It gives itself this role of developing the European dimension in sport. Now, the European dimension, (whats that?) … by promoting fairness and openness in sporting competitions, (thats nice, right), and co-operation between bodies responsible for sports, and by protecting the physical and moral integrity of sportsmen and sportswomen, especially the youngest sportsmen and sportswomen.

They are going to protect my childrens moral integrity. I dont need them to protect my childrens moral integrity. Thats weird stuff.

The other thing to bear in mind is that we give up a veto in that. Its a QMV issue.

Thats a very good point. So whatever they do here, we cant stop it.

It means that our children could be indoctrinated.


Well actually no you cant say that Johnny, you cant bless yourself before a game because that would suggest that you might have some kind of religion or something. Sing the Euro Song and off you go.

Think about all the bad things that could happen with that.

Article 48 says something to the effect that anything we havent thought about in all this, we can do afterwards.
Correct. There are two articles actually, that mean that the deal that we are signing here, if we were stupid enough to agree to it, even that deal can be changed afterwards. They can make changes to it with out the need of having a referendum in Ireland. Its Article 48 and Article 308. There are two articles that mean that the treaty can be changed and amended and changed after we say yes.

Again, they call us liars. Once they cant defeat us on the facts they just say that that is a red herring.

Do you find yourself to be the victim of a smear campaign?
Oh, theres a huge smear campaign going on, but its nothing that we didnt expect. Look, if you cant beat us on the facts, you have to call us liars, and try and turn me into some kind of Bond villain. I mean its just crazy stuff.

In the event that the people vote no, where does that leave the whole European project bearing in mind that a European Green speaking in Galway said that the Irish vote was irrelevant?

Its wishful thinking on his part. Well, lets say no and then see how irrelevant it is. If it is so irrelevant why is Angela Merkel and Barroso and all these people over? Look, if we say no, and I firmly believe we will, if we say no, the status quo remains. Nothing slows down, nothing goes out of control.

And you could argue do you want this thing to work more efficiently while it isnt democratically accountable? Why is that good? Is efficiency always a good thing? We do need to become a more capable global actor, I firmly believe that, I want to see that happen. We need to get competitive, this certainly doesnt provide for that. We need to get innovative. We need to re-establish ourselves as serious world leaders. This should be the European century, I dont accept that it has to be the Asian century. I think we can have a huge and real renaissance in European influence in the world, but its got to be based on the fundamentals of democracy, rule of law, and accountability to the peoples of Europe, because ultimately power is vested in you and you delegate it to those who legislate and make the laws.

What about the EU military issue?
I do not want the further development of a large European military unless it has democratically accountable civilian leadership, that the President who is representing us is democratically accountable. You dont build big armies, navies and air forces without having democratically civilian leadership above them.

Whos to say that the European army couldnt be used against a section of the people?

I didnt say that.

But, if theres no accountability?

In the US theres a big thing called posse-comitatus, part of their body of law which very much restricts the ability of the US military to act within the continental United States. Whatever you think about the American system and the war, they are ultimately accountable to a civilian leadership who are ultimately accountable to the people, which is why there is such a healthy debate going on in the US about the war [in Iraq], because people know that the people they are going to have to answer to are at the ballot box.
But their civilian leadership is very closely linked to the military arms trade, isnt it?

It is. Thats true, and look, its a far from perfect system. But I tell you what, its a hell of a lot better than being closely linked with the arms trade and never having to ask for a vote.

Thats the lobbyist kind of relationship – if you can pay the four of five million euro to the lobbyist and the guy never has to get elected, as a lobbyist you are going to have huge sway and influence, and this [the EU] is the same organisation that wants to cover up reports into corruption within the organs of Brussels.

Is part of the plan to build a military block to challenge China?
It is part of the agenda, I wouldnt even say that it is a sinister part of the agenda. I think that an emerging China is a very serious military power, and it is very old fashioned in many ways. Its basically colonising Africa now from a natural resource standpoint. They are developing a big what they call bluewater navy, that has a very powerful distant projection capability. We can ignore that and do anything about it and let them do whatever they are going to do, or we have to counterbalance this. Its whats gone on in the world for thousands of years. It does need to stop. But, let no-one say that that is not on the agenda, it is on the agenda, and I would say it is going to happen whether Ireland likes it or not. There is definitely nothing we can do to stop it. So the issue is, do you want that significant military power that Europe is going to have to project across the globe, do you want it to be accountable to a civilian democratically accountable leadership or not? Because the chances of getting into a war with a leadership that is not fully democratically accountable… by the way, they call it the High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs – read the policy that he is responsible for. Its the Foreign Security and Defence Policy of the Union. They dropped the word defence from the title because they knew it would have to go to a referendum in places like Ireland.

Let me tell you this: I am an ardent proponent of Irish neutrality under this formula. We cannot be part of a common European defence that isnt accountable to a democratically elected civilian leadership.

Do you find that youve had, for want of a better term, sister groups throughout Europe who are looking towards Ireland with this referendum in sight?

No, not sister groups, but individuals, and lots and lots and lots of them.

The media are saying that we have to get in line.
In line with what?

So the reality is there are people in Europe looking to us for inspiration. Absolutely. We are the only country thats having a referendum. If they had a referendum in France, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and a raft of other member states, this thing would be defeated. Nicolas Sarkozy was asked a few months ago why was France not having another referendum, and he said, because the French people would vote no. Ok. So Who do you work for?

Brown reneged on a Labour manifesto commitment to have a referendum. Let me tell you, there is one career that could be teetering on the edge of the Irish result, and thats Gordon Browns position as Prime Minister of Britain. If we say no, given all of the other pressures that hes under, it might be very difficult for Gordon Brown to stay on as Prime Minister, having reneged on his referendum commitment. There will be a huge call for his resignation.

There is speculation that Berties recent departure had more to do with the referendum than anything else. Would you concur with that?
Ive heard that. Ive heard it in Brussels. Ive heard it here. I dont know, but I do know that in Brussels the bureaucrats were terrified of people voting no here as a vote against Bertie Ahern. I actually think, if that was part of the reason, that they very unwittingly they did us an enormous favour, because one thing I was nervous about was the fact that they would try and de-legitimise the no vote here by saying that they didnt vote on the treaty – because they tried to to that with the French and the Dutch – they said they didnt vote on the Constitution, they voted on the price of carrots or something. Thats why I want a very high turnout, whatever the result is. A high turnout would be good.

They are saying that they need a high turnout for a yes vote, but I think that a high turnout is going to produce a no vote on this occasion. If we have that high turnout they can now not say that people were voting against the Government. So, they have put themselves in the situation where the only defence that they had to de-legitimise the result here is now gone. It was a huge boost for us.

And it also exposes their weaknesses. It showed their fear.
Their fear is immaterial to me.

But when you put it in perspective it is important.
Sure, Sure. I mean the fact that they wheeled out Angela Merkel to come here and tell us how we should be voting while she hasnt asked a single German their opinion on this. The audacity of that, it just boggles the mind.

By the way, Barroso said that theres no Plan B if we say no. Now, I tell you, thats a very interesting statement on his part because it reduces the possibilities to three things. He says that there is no Plan B, so, given that one of the primary functions of government and people responsible for legislation, etc., is contingency planning, hes the President of the European Commission, do you think he should have a contingency plan? He has no contingency plan. He should resign. He is incompetent if he has no contingency plan. He should resign or be fired, immediately. He is derelict in his duty to the people of Europe.

Or, two: there is a Plan B and they are not telling us what it is. Its another one of their many cover-ups. Or three, hes just lying. Its hilarious, you know, the stuff that these guys come out with.

So, thats it.

Thank you.
Youre very welcome. We are looking for volunteers right across the country – weve got a great response so far – to hand out leaflets. So we need to get the word out.



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