Forgetting the lessons of Lisbon
Some of the lessons of the first no vote to the Lisbon Treaty referendum seem to be have been learned, but then forgotten just as easily. We’ll soon know just how costly this will prove when it comes to the crucial Fiscal Treaty poll in early June.
One of the big lessons was that engaging and informing young people was crucial to a yes vote. It’s too glib to say a large chunk of them have left the country so there’s less of a need to engage. Generation Yes was arguably the biggest “game changer” in the Lisbon 2 vote. A well-organised, creative, engaging and well-resourced organisation, Generation Yes could rightly take credit for engaging with 18-25 year olds through media channels like Facebook and YouTube – channels that this audience actually used. It was staffed by a small army of young and articulate volunteers who rolled out a really impressive campaign over a number of months through the country’s universities, clubs and bars.
Alas their Facebook page is gathering virtual cobwebs and the Generation Yes website has been put out to grass.
They were, though, only one of the wider number of civil society groups that played a crucial role in educating voters and adding weight to the yes campaign. Other notables were Ireland for Europe, who were subsequently wound down, along with Women for Europe – the latter a strategic play to engage with women, a majority of whom had voted against the first Lisbon referendum.
While special interest groups come and go, given the importance of Europe and the EU to Ireland, the yes side would have benefitted greatly from sustained campaigning from groups like these given the important impact they had in 2009. Given the huge impact they made, their absence this time seems like a real loss.
A report in the last week’s Irish Times suggests that there will be some additions to the yes side. However, given the large number of undecided voters – almost 20% in recent polls – it’s reasonable to ask why it has been left so late?
So, it looks like the Yes side is doing it the hard way again!