At first glance, this development seems an awful lot like the annoying Hollywood tendency to try to influence the outcome of American elections. You know the type of thing. The likes of George Clooney, Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin come out every four years and tell the ordinary people who they should vote for. Why? Because professional actors know best. They get paid millions of dollars for making movies and from the safety of their on-set trailers, they pick up reams of information about economics and employment and how to right all society’s wrongs.
Of course, in their defense, it must be said actors are citizens too and, even if the sanctimonious tone in which they deliver their views is always grating, they are entitled to their opinions. Similarly, the likes of Malcolm O’Kelly and Brian O’Driscoll pay taxes in Ireland and have as much right to hold forth on whether Lisbon is good or not for the country as every barstool philosopher from Donegal to Dingle. Still, it’s kind of bizarre to read their quotes on the subject. O’Driscoll justified his presence at the rugby gathering by pointing out he’d read pamphlets to educate himself about the issue before coming out in favor. Maybe he did too.
However, we think it’s a tad odd for the Yes campaign to be trying to persuade voters onto their side by bringing out the high-voltage sporting celebs. Even as a neutral living abroad we wonder what it says about the validity of their arguments that they are pushing the endorsements of athletes so hard. O’Driscoll is famous and rightly loved for being brilliant with an oval ball in his hands. If we wanted advice on how to play centre, he’d be the guy to wheel out. But this is about geo-politics not about rugby.
Do they think people are that impressionable they’ll vote yes simply because that’s the way their favorite player is leaning? Obviously so. And the same principle applies right across the board.
“I’m delighted to support the ‘Wicklow For Europe’ campaign for a YES vote on the Lisbon Treaty referendum, and to be able to play an active role in meeting voters on the campaign trail,” said Mick O’Dwyer while on the stump in Baltinglass. “Europe has been good for Ireland, and it’s been the best team we’ve ever been on. As a manager, I believe strongly that we need to keep our place on Europe’s team and that’s why I’m urging everyone in Wicklow to vote YES to Lisbon on October 2nd.”
O’Dwyer is qualified to talk about the hotel business, about the unique challenges posed by having to manage different counties through the course of his career, and about steering the greatest team of all time. But what does he really know about Lisbon and neutrality and all the other stuff involved in this bureaucratic monstrosity?
“I think most of us didn’t understand it,” said Packie Bonner, explaining why he’s in favor now but was silent during the first referendum. “I have read a lot of documentation, I have listened to people, and I think a lot of those doubts and confusion have been addressed well. We need to be in Europe – not a bit, but right in the middle of it. I think we’ve got a special talent when we’re in there. We can make things happen. I’ve seen this country progress very, very rapidly while in Europe and part of the eurozone.”
Bonner was a great goalkeeper in his day, and he’s now (depending on who you talk to in the game) doing a decent job as the FAI’s Technical Director. Somewhere between stopping shots for Celtic and serving as assistant to Tommy Burns at Reading, did he develop an interest in impact of the EU on Irish life over the past three and a half decades? Sounds like it. Sounds like a man who in between charting the future direction of the sport in Ireland must keep a sharp eye on the currency markets too. What a pity nobody saw fit to ask him his opinion of NAMA? He must have some views on what to do there too.
At least Bonner and most of the rest of the icons involved in the campaign live and work in Ireland. Robbie Keane hasn’t lived in Dublin since he was 16 years old. In other words, he’s spent his entire adult life in a different country yet voters are supposed to be persuaded to mark yes because he thinks it’s a good idea. How does a multi-millionaire who makes his home in London know what’s good for a nation he departed in 1996. The short answer is he doesn’t but he was somehow motivated to lend his name and fame to this thing by somebody.
What a pity at his last press conference with the Irish team that Keane wasn’t asked whether he felt the Treaty might affect our sovereignty and lead to the creation of a European superstate? Putting him on the spot like that would have perfectly captured the absurdity of this whole enterprise. There must be a hundred good reasons for people to vote for Lisbon but surely the imprimatur of an uneducated professional footballer who’s never worked in Ireland or lived there as an adult is not one of them.
Sports and politics. One awkward mix.