There are two big lies in politics.
The first one begins, “The people have voted for . . .”
The second, following from the first, begins, “We have a mandate to . . .”
When any politician comes on and prefaces comments with such lines, shout at the radio or television, “No, they haven’t” or “No, you haven’t”, because politicians are worse than second hand car salesmen and estate agents in presenting the ‘facts’ in a light most suitable to their purposes.
The people didn’t “vote for” anything on Thursday. They voted by 53% to 47% not to allow the Government to proceed with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
They voted, the 53% of the voters who did vote, not because their was a popular clamour for a referendum, but because the Constitution requires there be a referendum.
The majority who voted “No” did so for many and various reasons, as did the minority who voted “Yes”. The woman in Galway who voted “No” because she was afraid her sons would be conscripted into a European army was no more misinformed than the woman in Dublin who voted “Yes” because Ireland would be expelled from the European Union if it didn’t accept the Treaty.
Following on from the fact that people vote with diverse motives, comes the conclusion that any claim to a “mandate” is a misrepresentation of why people voted the way they did.
The main parties in this area filled their posters not with European issues, but with the faces of their local TDs and councillors, the parties spent their time promoting themselves.”Trust me, I’m a politician” seemed to be the message. It was a message that didn’t find resonance with most voters.
Amongst all the posturing and hyperbole since yesterday morning, Richard Sinnott writing in today’s “Irish Times” is one of the few responses to deal with substance and not spin.