Philip Pilkington: Vote or Die! – The Coming Irish Election Blackmail

By Philip Pilkington, a journalist and writer living in Dublin, Ireland

Vote or die muth#%#^*#, muth#%#^*# vote or die,
Rock the vote or else I’m gonna stick a knife through your eye,
Democracy is founded on one simple rule,
Get out there and vote or I will muth#%#^*# kill you.

– P. Diddy ‘Vote or Die

The Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced that a referendum will be called so that the Irish people can vote on the new and oh-so-suicidal fiscal compact. If it is voted for Ireland will be subject to years of harsh austerity. Nothing new there. But, perhaps worst of all, if the vote goes through this austerity will crush the Irish economy into ruin wearing the mask of democratic consent.

Last week we reported murmurings coming from within the opposition party calling for a referendum. The senior opposition party adviser that I spoke to indicated that he might try to push for a referendum, calling the fiscal compact “madness”. Fair enough, we’re all agreed there. But this was probably a political manoeuvre plain and simple.

The opposition thought that they could have a few swipes at the government by questioning the democratic legitimacy of their decisions. But apparently the government have called their bluff and agreed to hold a referendum.

My reading is that the government are perfectly confident that they can push the vote through. The Irish people are against austerity, but they have a vague inclination that ‘There Is No Alternative’. The government are confident that they can play on this fear in order to push the public into voting the way they want them to.

The previous government did something similar with the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish people had originally voted it down much to the annoyance of the Eurocrats, so the Irish government repackaged it and made people vote again. They then launched a massive campaign scaring people into thinking that if they didn’t vote ‘Yes’ to the treaty they would see mass unemployment in the country. The campaign was called ‘Yes to Lisbon, Yes to Jobs’.

In Ireland at the time people joked around that we had voted ‘wrong’ last time and that we must now vote ‘right’ this time. Many people who had voted ‘No’ to the original treaty either did what they were told because they believed the government’s blatant lies about the link between the Lisbon Treaty and Irish employment or they simply stayed at home on voting day. Most people I know who voted ‘No’ the first time around were too cynical to vote a second time, resenting the fact that they were being treated like children by their government.

The PR campaign that was launched during the Lisbon campaign was carried by most major media outlets, most businesses and most political parties. Put simply, almost the entire Irish elite got behind it. The voices pointing out the hypocrisy of having the Irish people vote twice on the same issue were drowned out in a flood of misleading soundbites and ideological op-eds that poured forth from almost every outlet.

With the coming referendum on the fiscal compact the government and the media will ramp up the rhetoric to an even higher pitch. We already see business groups and major political parties coming out in support of the fiscal compact.

What’s more, the government won’t have to lie this time around. They will be able to quite honestly say that if the Irish people don’t vote the compact through our funding will be cut off. This will be far more effective than he nonsense they tried last time linking Irish employment to the Lisbon Treaty – and remember, even that worked when it was shoved down peoples’ throats at the time.

Put simply: this isn’t a real vote because no one in their right mind would vote for their own suicide. If the Irish people do dare to vote against the fiscal compact they will be told to vote again and battered with ever more serious threats (no doubt backed by European leaders who will come up with all sorts of awful things they will do to us if we don’t accept the terms). The democratic legitimacy gained by the vote will then be used in the coming years to justify the slow and painful death that our economy will be subject to.

After this referendum the Irish people will be seen to have made a real decision and will be said to have no reason to complain. This reminds me of an old point of logic.

A mugger approaches a man in a dark alley points a gun at him and says “Your money or your life”. Of course, the mugger is being dishonest because if the man refuses to fork over the cash the mugger will shoot him and take the money anyway. So, he really has no choice – if he doesn’t give over the money he will lose both his money AND his life.

Ireland will soon be put in a similar position. We will be given the false choice to either vote for immediate economic destruction or gradual economic destruction. No prizes for guessing what we’ll choose. And afterwards commentators and politicians will insist that we have no right to complain; after all, we handed over the money voluntarily… right?

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  1. j.grmwd

    Damn depressing if they manage to get people to vote for their own impoverishment. At least the Greeks are protesting.

    1. Dameocrat

      If referendums were good for the troika how do you explain Iceland? How do you explain why the shut down the referendum in Greece? While a pr campaign may fool the people, it is not likely to fool them 3 times in a row. It is actually lefty governments not referendums that have sold the people out to the banks.

      1. j.grmwd

        I don’t find it implausible that the Irish could vote yes. That’s what’s so depressing. Too many people are ignorant of the inner workings of the economy. Too many people believe what they hear over and over again from the supposed experts – “There is no alternative.” Remember, this won’t be a referendum on whether Ireland should bail out the banks. This will be a referendum on whether the government should be “fiscally responsible”. The government is like a household, it needs to balance its budget; the private sector is the engine of growth and the government just needs to get out of the way; we can export our way to recovery – all that hokum.

  2. Dameocrat

    So you would rather trust politicians to change things around. How has that worked out for Greece, Spain and Portuguese whose socialist governments betrayed them. The truth be told, if the Irish are silly enough to fall for Eu propaganda a third time, there is not much hope under any circumstances. It is true a no vote will probably cause this to be reinstroduced but they can always vote no again and again and again.

  3. Pitchfork

    “What’s more, the government won’t have to lie this time around. They will be able to quite honestly say that if the Irish people don’t vote the compact through our funding will be cut off.”

    How much of Ireland’s deficit is going toward funding the banks and their bondholders at this point? Under certain circumstances, “funding” wouldn’t matter as much if the bank guarantee were repealed because there wouldn’t be as much need for it. (I don’t even know where to begin looking for the numbers on this.)

    I still can’t believe the people haven’t literally stormed Leinster House. Of course the man from Achill with the Anglo-Toxic Bank cement truck had the right idea. Is trua e, nach ea?

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Too late to go back on the bank bailouts. It’s not like we can just take the money back. If we vote ‘No’ on this Europe can decide to cut our funding. That would be catastrophic (if they went that far). The Irish people will be told this and, frankly, no honest person could disagree.

      Immediate death or slow death. You ‘decide’.

      1. OTAY

        To vote yes is a vote for no hope. It is disheartening. Debt bond funding is the anchor chain of slavery. To vote No is not a vote of certain death; Ireland has a productive economy. A vote of No is a foray into the unknown. From an outsiders perspective it seems to at least offer possibility. If not now then when? The Troika have forced the choice which is no choice. Damn them is the alternative.

  4. Very Serious Sam

    I do hope that the Irish people reject this thing. And this time please stick to it, not like the last two times when they 1st voted no, then agreed in the 2nd ballot.

    At least the Irish get the chance to vote. We Germans don’t, Merkel and Schäuble (and pretty much most of the political ‘elite’) are not much in favour of real democracy.

    I can assure you that if we would have been asked, none of these crazy ‘eurozone bailout funds’ etc. would have passed.

  5. disgruntled observer


    What’s your read on the sheer level of disgust here? At not only the ‘no bondholder left behind’ policy, (see ballyhea), but also Fine Gael, and in particular Labour, for the ever-continuing austerity?

    Also, how do you think the issue of sovereignty will play?

    I often think we’re an innately conservative people, until we’re not. I’ve been wondering where the line would be drawn here. The past few years have proven me wrong many times. And yet still I wonder.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      People don’t like what’s going on. There is also deep cynicism. But the Irish people are scared of the Eurocrats. They hold the purse-strings. That’s why this vote looks a bit like the parliamentary equivalent of a show trial.

      And I guarantee you, if it goes through people — even oppositional people — will be forced to accept the ‘you guys voted for it, don’t complain’ meme that will arise because of it. That’s the worst part.

  6. Jessica

    1) Ireland has theoretical alternatives, but practically is there any group that is actually ready to provide alternative leadership right now? Particularly in as hostile an environment as the Eurocracy will unleash if the Irish don’t do what they betters tell them to?
    2) On the other hand, a No vote would have more and unpredictable consequences. It is not only the Irish being done in this way and there is no telling what the contagion effects might be. Or how Mr Market might react.

    For the Irish elite, to force the Irish people to agree to their own rape has great advantage in demoralizing the Irish people. But the broader European elite may see less advantage to itself and more unpredictability. If so, they will find a way for this referendum to be held on the same day as the Greek one, i.e. never.

  7. Hugh

    In a kleptocracy, the choices are always between corporatist kleptocrat A and corporatist kleptocrat B, which brings to mind Emma Goldman’s observation: “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

    1. Dirk77

      I’ve been wondering the same thing. If voters in Greece or Ireland can’t seem to find leaders to do the obvious, i.e., default at once, when did democracy ever really work for them or anyone for that matter?

      On the other hand, there was a show on Aljazeera recently about the Irish and their debt. The unwillingness of the Irish to revolt against such an obvious attempt to f*** them over totally, the show was leaning toward the Irish reluctance to question authority, arising mainly from the historical weight of the Catholic church and a long history of being slaves to the British.

  8. SidFinster

    Most likely, the Irish government decided to let the referendum go forward because they feared losing a court challenge.

    In that event, it makes better PR in favor of the referendum if the government not visibly seen to oppose it.

    1. Ignacio

      At least, you Irish have the opportunity to become “icelandic” and show the central finger to the fiscal compact guys. It is a no brainer that corporation managers support the Yes options since they are precisely the guys pressing for the “fiscal compact”. The problem then is that these referendums are assymetric: every institution (public and private will push for a YES vote while the NO option will be supported publicly only by a handful of guys that will be termed quixotic by the mass media.

      The only powerful opposition to the YES men crowd could come via internet, with the support of international movements like Occupy and Indignados. If there is a referendum, look for it!

      1. Philip Pilkington

        It’s different than Iceland. Iceland were voting on paying back bank debt. We’ve already paid the piper. We’re voting on austerity measures and if we vote ‘No’ the government goes broke.

        1. Ignacio

          Sure it is different, but the premise is still similar. To be sure, Icelanders were promised to go to hell if they voted not to allow the state to assume private debt. English and Dutch threatened to sue Icelanders in Intl.courts.

          The BIG difference is that Iceland PM backed his citizens while Irish PMs didn’t and won’t do so.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            The British and Dutch had no real leverage (oooo… court date, I’m soooo scared). That’s why the leaders got behind the ‘Go To Hell’ vote. The Eurocrats hold Ireland’s purse string. If we tell them to piss off they just halt payments going into our finance ministry. No one gets their dole, public sector workers stop getting paid. Say good night to your economy…

          2. Dirk77

            Phil, I am picking up the idea from your posts (you may have said this explicitly in posts I’ve missed or I read it and forgot about it, but retained the essence) that you really want to see United Europe work. So Ireland leaving the Eurozone is not an option for you. Is this true? If so, what if at this point no one in the Eurozone cares anymore but you? I am concerned that the others in the zone are just going to chew Ireland up and spit them out eventually so why let Ireland suffer anymore? Could a giant eff you now to the rest of the zone be an opportunity to become a real country at last? I dont know. I’m just asking as a third party here in the USA watching the euro drama.

          3. Philip Pilkington

            It’s more complex than that. I think if we left the Eurozone it would be worse than staying. But then I’m not a hardcore Republican, so perhaps you’re asking the wrong dude RE: United Ireland. I think it’s a myth. And I’ve met some IRA blokes…

            To be frank, we never really left the colonies. We just got a new colony. And it came in the form of FDI. Thankfully it allowed Irish people to lead decent and dignified lives. I’d like to preserve that — with as much fiscal sovereignty as possible attached. But that’s an opinion, so don’t put too much stock in it.

          4. Philip Pilkington

            No probs. It’s a colourful country. But the Republican movement, on my reading, is largely dead. Sinn Fein have become a quasi-Marxist party. (I know some of them). The peace process stabilised the Catholic/Protestant divide and so Sinn Fein went far to the left — this was always in the background. I find them useless politically… but to each his own. They may not be in the future.

            That’s the reality of the current situation though. It’s not about ‘Brits’ or ‘Catholics’. It’s about sovereign funding and budgets!

        2. Jim

          Ireland would be as broke as Argentina was after it left the dollar peg. And a few years later, it was growing faster than any country in Latin America.

          Ireland does have a choice. Vote to declare bankruptcy today, or vote to prolong the misery and declare bankruptcy in five years.

  9. Fiver

    I don’t think a “No” to the deal would necessarily be followed up by a “second referendum” this time, because I’d guess if 1 country other than Greece walks (and perhaps for Greece too, though the perception that they’re already out via default might not mean the same impact), it’s pretty much over for this version of Save The EZ Austerity/Fiscal Union Can Kick on behalf of the banks, banks, banks that drowned the sovereigns trying to save them. So I hope the Irish people say “No”. And that it blows badly enough to finally convince people everywhere this really is a pivotal point in time, and the implications of dodging tough choices keep getting worse from here. Time to get on the ball. Any chance is better than no chance at all. A win for Ireland could be a win for everyone.

  10. Philip Pilkington

    For anyone interested, the above forces have now moved into place — but the pro-compact forces have yet to wheel out the ‘if you don’t vote you go broke’ meme. That was left up to the Germans:

    “However, Dr Michael Meister, a budget and finance spokesman for Dr Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) said: “Whoever doesn’t accept the treaty has no protection from the ESM bailout fund. If the Irish people think they don’t need any ESM protection they can, of course, reject the fiscal treaty.””

      1. Jim

        Ignacio, what’s wrong with the CDU statement? Did the US Treasury extend Argentina billions in loans after it unilaterally left the dollar peg?

        Of course not, and neither should the EZ.

        That said, the Irish should vote no and abandon the Eurozone.

        It’s best for the Irish, and best for the peripheral nations.

        It seems so many of you want to have it both ways. No fiscal compact but more transfer payments from the North to peripheral nations.

  11. rafael bolero

    So, vote no, go broke, send the government home, seize the elite, seize their wealth, grow potatoes, burn peat, copy manuscripts–and play that wonderful music and sing, keep brewing, dance. You have beautiful men, women, land. It will be the same everywhere. Riot-police Orcs are the elite’s last barricade. Their friends and relatives everywhere need to talk sense and justice to them. The gig is up.

  12. Ignacio

    You Irish have to think the following. Everybody will say you that a NO vote is the end of the world for Ireland. The return to the Ice Age. Nevertheless, the consequences of the NO vote are rather unpredictable. The only predictable are the consequences of saying YES. If you like that outcome vote for it. But do not protest later.

  13. The Dork of Cork

    You are essentially accepting appeasement because you think we are the next Poland – vulnerable to economic Blitzkrieg.
    Do we take the risk of running towards Britain hoping against hope they will not stab us in the back ?
    Or do we accept the economic equilivent of a concentration camp ?

    1. Philip Pilkington

      I’m not voting. It’s not real choice. But I have a trick up my sleeve… I’m going to try to get the opposition parties (FF included) to push the tax-backed bonds idea as a real alternative. It’s a long shot. But still.

  14. Mattski

    Across Europe, they simply hold these ratifying referenda until they get the vote they want. Calling it “childish” doesn’t begin to describe it: it’s deeply undemocratic and should–like austerity for the poor to pay for the crimes of the rich–be cause for open rebellion.

  15. Peter Pan

    When I was a child and experiencing nightmares, I learned that the fastest way to end the nightmare was to kill myself. I became quite good at it, even recognizing symptoms before the nightmare developed and stopping it (hey, I’m gonna die anyway). From there on I rarely experienced a nightmare.

    When the crony politicians working on behalf of the banksters present the people with the choice of (a) vote AND die, or (b) don’t vote AND die, the people should recognize that under this system they’re gonna die anyway. So to end the Irish nightmare, it seems that the Irish can either choose to kill themselves, or better yet, kill the crony politicians.

    Good luck.

  16. Wells Fargo Must Die

    Propaganda is a powerful tool and the masses are typically no match for it. The Irish at least have the opportunity to save themselves. If they vote for their own destruction, they can at least say they brought it upon themselves.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      “If they vote for their own destruction, they can at least say they brought it upon themselves.”

      It begins…

  17. Panostk

    Just a reminder from Greece.
    When this mess started Greece had a dept af 150% of GDP (around 250 bn euro).
    Yes, Greece economics were “exceptional” in many ways BUT then the EZ and Greek elite decided the country needed saving.
    And they saved us.
    After two years we have:
    1) Wages -40% (with the pro-crisis cost of living)
    2) Unemployment skyrocketing from 11% to 21%+ and rising
    AND the dept?

    From 250 BN and after :
    110 BN first saving loan
    130 BN second saving loan and
    100 BN “Haircut” on previous loans

    Greece’s dept is now 370 BN with a GDP that magicaly dissapeared from the news because the ratio of dept/GDP would be so scarry to report.

    AND the punchline:
    In 2020 the ratio would magically be 120% (because the magic fairy mentioned somewhere above will make it so)

    I think the Irish people should double think the Yes to slow death.
    Maybe it isn’t so slow after all.

  18. Rotter

    “The democratic legitimacy gained by the vote will then be used in the coming years to justify the slow and painful death that our economy will be subject to.”

    And out of ev ery single media orifice, soome hairdo spokeperson for the corporations who rule us will prefeace any election or policy comment with “the Irish people are center right” or “The Irisb people are looking for moderate solutions” sorry i really am.

    1. Jim

      If 51% of the Irish people vote “yes”, than ANYONE would be correct in describing them as center-right.

  19. William Allen

    Well, yes, we do have a choice in Ireland. We can reject the jackboot of the troika, exit the eurozone (that does not mean leaving the EU!) and re-establish sovereignty in our own currency. Yes this is painfull, yes, there will be devaluation of the new currency and debt defaults. But long term will give Ireland the best chance to grow out of its problems, restore healthy empolyment, and have its children find jobs on native soil again. Frankly, though, I don’t think we have the courage as a society to do this. Sad.

    1. Ignacio

      Courage is exactly what is needed here. I believe that Ireland needs help from other countries. Of course, I am not talking about interested finantial help provided by creditors.

  20. Fiver

    What is the aim of writing this piece if there is no call for taking a serious run at winning the referendum and for the Irish people to attempt to take their future into their own hands? You call it a false choice, rather than a crucial opportunity, make the Eurocrats’ argument for them (utter calamity to resist the EZ or EU – “suicide”, no less), and indicate you intend to talk up a pet money idea to a bunch of politicos of dubious integrity.

    How could winning that vote not give the Irish people, and everyone else being clocked by this, more bargaining clout? You think Merkosy would try to cut Ireland off after the people voted to walk? They’d be freaked. The people’s effort in Greece would receive a MAJOR shot in the arm. Ditto France, Italy, Spain. The whole Merkosy “we must have fiscal union to credibly fund the ECB” bankster policy could be torn down with several, rapid-succession political defeats and a real, NON BANKSTER solution undertaken. This is anything but suicide. This is about a future as globalized serfs or one as an independent, proud people.

    Nor do you make the argument that it might be better to go along for now in the hopes the whole thing comes apart to Ireland’s benefit via someone else’s tough decision (France for example). Yet surely winning the referendum would bring that day closer if you view Germany as the reason for all of this – i.e., a new political and “Mr. Market” crisis the “solution” of which is taken out of Germany’s hands and plopped in the lap of the kinder, gentler IMF and its purported $2 trillion pockets.

    Taken together, I cannot imagine a position more supportive of the status quo/present power structure both within Ireland and globally than the one you’ve adopted here.

    Altogether puzzling.

  21. b.

    “We will be given the false choice to either vote for immediate economic destruction or gradual economic destruction. No prizes for guessing what we’ll choose. And afterwards commentators and politicians will insist that we have no right to complain; after all, we handed over the money voluntarily… right?”

    So what are you going to do about it?

    “simply stayed at home on voting day”
    “too cynical to vote a second time”

    Ah yes. Because it is like under Stalin – you get to vote, but there is nothing (else) you can do. Ireland. It’s the new Gulag. It’s like the Deep South in the 50’s. Like India under the British. Oh, wait.

    I don’t know why, but our ancestors found ways, against more adversity, with fewer resources, and fewer prospects. But then, freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose, and asymptotically, we won’t quite get there fast enough to avoid habituation.

  22. Seanán Kerr

    Hmm as far as I understand funding won’t be cut off if we don’t vote it in, it’ll just mean that we won’t have access to ESM (European Stability Mechanism) funding, which will only come into play if we require a second bailout, which we will, but with no financial safety net maybe we’ll do what we should have done four years ago and pull an Iceland (though you’d need a completely new class of politician/political party to get that done)?

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