Edmond Grace SJ, who campaigned tirelessly for a ‘Yes’ vote on the Lisbon treaty, has written a brief reflection on the event and what it tells us about ourselves. “Last Saturday evening some hundreds of people gathered in a Dublin hotel to celebrate the ‘yes’ vote for Lisbon. These people were one small part of the ‘Ireland for Europe’ campaign which was made up of a myriad of small networks addressing different aspects of the campaign for a yes vote. They were to be found in every part of the country and in every sector of society – community groups, trade unions, farming organisations, churches, public service, politics, sport, business. The turn-out (the biggest of any European referendum) and the majority (two to one) is largely due to these extensive networks of dedicated people and the leaders of our three largest political parties have acknowledged their gratitude.”
When people are active in any area of life they develop networks of contact and goodwill which, in today’s world, cannot be confined to one country. The goodwill and trust which we Irish have come to enjoy throughout the European Union is a reflection of this human reality. The initial rejection of the Lisbon Treaty placed that goodwill in jeopardy and, as a result, many people around the country were galvanised into action – recruiting others, raising money, getting materials printed and distributed, getting both local and national media coverage.
What motivated them? Was it fear? In a way it was – fear of losing something really good. The people in that hotel room on Saturday night were happy and proud that this country, at a time of deep disillusionment and anger, could respond with such an emphatic ‘yes.’ They were also aware of continuing doubt and suspicion among their fellow citizens and the unfinished task of building up trust and goodwill towards a project which remains new and unfamiliar.