The treaty that would not die
With the "Draft Agreement on Reinforced Economic Union" Ireland finds itself in the final instalment of a very scary movie trilogy. By David Johnson.
To the B-movie horror pantheon of zombie banks, ghost estates and the grasping, mauling tendrils of the bloated vampire squid that is Goldman Sachs, we can now add Lisbon 3, the Treaty That Would Not Die! As the initial shock of this revelation subsides and the beads of perspiration begin to cool, it slowly starts to dawn on us all that we have found ourselves in the final part of a scary movie trilogy.
"...here's the critical thing. If you find yourself dealing with an unexpected back-story, and a preponderance of exposition, then the sequel rules do not apply. Because you are not dealing with a sequel. You are dealing with the concluding chapter of a trilogy. That's right. It's a rarity in the horror field, but it does exist, and it is a force to be reckoned with. Because true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn't true from the get-go. Godfather, Jedi, all revealed something that we thought was true that wasn't true. So if it is a trilogy you are dealing with, here are some super trilogy rules. One: you've got a killer who's gonna be superhuman. Stabbing him won't work. Shooting him won't work. Basically, in the third one, you've gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up. Number two: anyone, including the main character, can die. It's the final chapter. It could be Reservoir Dogs by the time this thing is through. Number three: the past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest! Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you."
"The Rules of a Trilogy" as explained by Randy in 'Scream 3'
Of course it's not actually going to be called Lisbon 3 - it’s currently going by the far more technocratic "Draft Agreement on Reinforced Economic Union" - but the fact remains that for the third time in four years the people of Ireland may be called upon to vote on the future of Europe. I say “may” because the Government is currently doing everything in its power to avoid the inconvenience of taking this treaty to the people, and odds are it will all end up in the courts or with the President before a single ballot paper is printed.
So as we all wait with bated breath it might be worth taking a few moments to prepare ourselves for the horror that lies ahead. Forewarned is forearmed!
Rule One: We've got a killer who's gonna be superhuman
We voted 'No' and it rose from the dead, we voted 'Yes' and were told it was gone for good, and now, as we rummage around in the attic looking for some stuff to sell off on Ebay so we can pay our heating bills, it leaps from the shadows, knife gripped tight, ready to rip and slash its way through those pitiful and tattered rags of economic sovereignty that we have wrapped around our shivering bodies.
The more cynical amongst you might reason that, given the mess successive governments have made of the economy, handing over economic control to someone else might not be such a bad idea after all. But the type of control imagined amounts to a prescription for permanent austerity with minimal room for State spending on such luxuries as education, welfare or health - even after such time as we have managed to pay back the private bank debt that has been loaded onto the public purse.
As we learned the hard way at the start of Lisbon 2, voting 'No' the first time won't be enough to lay this beast to rest. It’s going to take something special this time, and we might not be able to do it on our own.
Rule Two: Anyone, including the main character, can die
When Greece decided to have a referendum on their own EU bailout, Angela Merkel said that, "The referendum must be on whether Greece is to remain in the euro.” Sarkozy (Kodos to her Kang in our Treehouse of Horror) said that he knew the Greeks would "make the right choices". The threat was clear: take the money or leave the EU; vote the right way or die.
The stakes are even higher with Lisbon 3, and the unavoidable truth is that no one, despite all the predictions and assertions made by a veritable rogues' gallery of talking heads, knows how all of this will end. We will hear talk of impending euro collapse or a full-on global financial meltdown; of a Europe without Ireland or a total disintegration of the EU; and most of all of the Irish people who selfishly dare to put their own interests ahead of The Grand European Dream. While “there is no alternative” sounds just as hollow in German and French as in English, talk of reprisals is not entirely misplaced, for while there may be no mechanism for pushing a member state out of the EU, as David Cameron learned there is nothing to stop all the others carrying on without you.
But even if the Irish behave like responsible European citizens and do what Kang and Kodos tell us to do, even if the referendum is passed and the treaty enacted, will it all be enough to prevent the collapse of the euro? And if we sign away the tattered rags of our economic sovereignty and the euro still collapses, what then?
As the man said, “It could be Reservoir Dogs by the time this thing is through.”
Rule Three: The past will come back to bite you in the ass
As Conor McCabe helpfully pointed out last year in his book Sins of the Father, we have an awful lot of bodies buried in our national cellar: from the construction and development of the IFSC - where morality was as light on the ground as regulations - through to the introduction of Section 23 tax relief on investment properties that fueled a property boom as a method of tax avoidance. Our light-touch financial sector attracted inward investment from European banks eager to cash in on the Celtic Tiger, and when the house of cards upon which the property sector was built collapsed and the corpses of our national sins started popping up through the crumbling foundations, the true horror of the situation began to dawn on them. Their reaction was swift and, for Ireland, catastrophic.
No European bank will be allowed to fail, insisted the ECB in late 2008, and thus the disastrous Bank Guarantee was issued, staple-gunning the fate of Ireland to that of Anglo Irish Bank forever while the State was forced to surrender the bulk of its economic sovereignty to borrow money to pay back the European banks. While events in Greece and Italy have overshadowed our own misfortunes on the global stage, and Lisbon 3 is as much a response to the actions of Burlusconi who bunga-bungaed while Rome burned as it is to the antics of Fingers, Seánie and our own 1%, we will not be allowed to forget that we were the first to answer the ECB's late night phone call, its raspy voice asking with glee, “What's your favourite scary movie?”
As for the big revelation at the end of this particular frightfest, the rules of a scary movie say that you can never have sex, drink or do drugs, for sin equals death. If greed was our sex and property our drugs then, boy, did we sin as a nation. From the start of our own economic collapse we have been told that it was of our own devising, that we lost the run of ourselves as a nation and partied too hard, but true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn't true from the get-go.
When the dust settles and Lisbon 3 has been passed (for surely that is the only outcome we will be allowed to deliver), and we stand looking over the costumed killer of Irish economic and fiscal sovereignty, my money is on the mask being pulled back to reveal not the grizzled visage of Seánie or Fingers, but the razor-sharp beak of the vampire squid itself, Goldman Sachs.
The Grand European Dream that Lisbon 3 is fighting to preserve has been replaced by the Nightmare of the Vampire Squid, for after engineering the financial collapse of two continents Goldman Sachs now finds itself wrapped as tightly around the EU as it is around the US Federal Reserve. As Aidan Regan pointed out in November, ECB head “Super” Mario Draghi was a former Goldman Sachs executive, current Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti was an international advisor to the firm, Lucas Papademos as Governor of Greece's Central Bank colluded with Goldman Sachs on the massive €2.3 billion credit default swap that was a major factor in Greece's current economic crisis before being hand-picked by the EU as his country's new Prime Minister, and our own Fine Gael draw inspiration for their economic policies from their patron Peter Sutherland, Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who back in June of last year declared that Ireland must give up control of its budget to Brussels to save the EU in a manner uncannily similar to the propsed "Draft Agreement on Reinforced Economic Union".
Follow the money, as they say, and if you do you will normally find a bloated tentacle of the vampire squid wrapped tightly around it.
Lisbon 3 is a very scary movie indeed. Even scarier, however, is the thought of not being allowed to vote on it at all.
Image top: M.V. Jantzen.