Sunday, February 15, 2009

Libertas to pin hopes on a pro-Catholic agenda and hire's former British Army spin doctor to run Brussels bureau

Caroline Simons (left):Prospective Libertas candidate for Dublin and former
spokesperson /current legal advisor to the ProLife Campaign and former
Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna listening to Taoiseach Brian Cowen making
a keynote speech at before the National Forum of Europe, Dublin Castle 22 May 2008

Libertas have recruited a former British Army communications officer as chef de cabinet of its Libertas EU. Lt Col Robin Matthews, spokesman former spokesman for British forces in Helmand, Afganistan is now running the Libertas hub in Brussels. Declan ganley's penchant for hiring ex military has thus extended from his Rivada networks which is staffed by several former US military personal but has now extended to an EU warrior on terror.

An aide for Libertas has also confirmed that it cannot run the same policies in different countries. the Catholic hard line anti abortion platform ids deemed to be a goer in Poland and the West of Ireland but the spokesman said that this policy will not work in the Czech Republic or Sweden. The implication is that Libertas will tailor policies to fit different territories. Therefore we will have no idea what the party stand for or intend to do if they get a mandate.
This is sinister political opportunism. What are we to believe the parties actual views are if they can be this cavalier in their approach to policy.

Ireland Sunday Business Post echoes this blog in noting that"Ganley has insistently denied being a Eurosceptic or in any way anti-European, but he has allied himself to elements in some European countries that are not just Eurosceptics, but Euro haters."

We can only conclude that Libertas cannot be believed. They will tailor policies to suit a particular voter poll regardless of their own beliefs. They make public statements diametricly opposite to their actual stance.

Libertas to pin hopes on a pro-Catholic agenda
Sunday, February 15, 2009 By Pat Leahy
Libertas, the anti-Lisbon Treaty group founded by Declan Ganley, is to launch its Irish campaign for the European Parliament eletions later this month and will bring candidates from all over Europe together in Rome at the end of March.

The organisation will unveil its Irish candidates, expected to include Ganley himself in the North West (Connacht-Ulster) constituency, in the coming weeks, his spokesman said last week. A conference in Rome on March 25 will mark the beginning of a pan-European campaign.

The Brussels organisation is being largely run by the former Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde, a long-time critic of further European integration. The group has also hired Robin Matthews, a former British army communications officer,and is advertising for interns on its website. A spokesman said that staff numbers would exceed 100 shortly.

Solicitor Caroline Simons, who campaigned against the Lisbon treaty with Libertas, is expected to be the newgroup’s candidate in Dublin. Libertas has promised a high profile personality in Leinster, and may yet stand a candidate in Munster.

The group’s spokesman acknowledged that sitting MEP Kathy Sinnott ‘‘agrees with us on 99 per cent of the issues’’. Ganley has not officially confirmed that he will run in the North West constituency, but his aides have acknowledged that it would be an enormous climb down for him to back out at this stage. ‘‘He can’t not run. But he’s an all-or-nothing guy,” said one.

The alliance with Sinnott, the inclusion of Simons, and Ganley’s speech to a meeting of Catholic groups last weekend in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, in which he spoke of his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage and quoted approvingly from Pope Benedict XVI, signified a broadening of the Libertas identity from a single issue group campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty. Though she came to prominence as a disabilities campaigner, Sinnott has strong antiabortion views, while Simons is a former spokeswoman for the prolife campaign.

But evolving a distinctive policy identity in an organisation that has ambitions to stretch across Europe won’t be easy. ‘‘The speech that Declan gave last week,” said an aide about his remarks to the Catholic groups, ‘‘that might serve him well in the west of Ireland and Poland. But we can’t have candidates saying that sort of thing in the Czech Republic or Sweden.”

The evolution of a coherent Libertas identity before the European elections faces other challenges, too.

Ganley has insistently denied being a Eurosceptic or in any way anti-European, but he has allied himself to elements in some European countries that are not just Eurosceptics, but Euro haters. It’s difficult, for example, to characterizes the Czech president Vaclav Klaus - whom Ganley has met and feted - in any other way.

Whatever about opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, outright opposition to the European project - or an alliance with those who are so opposed - will be a tough sell in Ireland. By most measures - the referendum result aside - Ireland is one of the most pro-European countries in the union.

However, Ganley has chosen to run in that part of Ireland in which feelings towards the EU project are the least warm.

According to detailed research carried out by RedC for The Sunday Business Post after the Lisbon Treaty referendum (as part of a project with Trinity College), the Connacht -Ulster region was significantly less pro-Lisbon and less pro-European than the rest of the country.

For example, asked whether they agreed that Ireland should ‘‘do all it could to unite fully with the EU,” or if Ireland should ‘‘do all it can to protect its independence from the EU’’, voters in Connacht-Ulster came down 48-46 in favour of independence. Dublin, by contrast, favoured uniting with Europe by a margin of 60-36 per cent.

This finding is reflected across the research. Some 48 per cent in Connacht-Ulster see themselves as ‘‘Irish only’’; 44 per cent as ‘‘Irish and European’’. In Dublin, 54 per cent say they are ‘‘Irish and European’’.

Some 30 per cent of people in the West and North-West don’t expect Ireland to benefit from the EU in the future.

In the actual referendum, all the constituencies in Connacht-Ulster counties voted No. The highest number of No votes was in Mayo, which delivered 30,000 votes against Lisbon, with less than 19,000 in favour.

This sentiment has endured in the region. Last month’s poll showed that, while national opinion had swung once again behind the Lisbon Treaty, the margin was slimmest in Connacht-Ulster. While the Yes vote leads by 74-26 in Dublin, the margin in the West and North West was just 54-46.

On issues such as abortion there is also a distinct difference between Connacht-Ulster and the rest of the country. When questioned, 51 per cent of people in the region said abortion should never be allowed in Ireland. In Dublin, the number is just 36 per cent. Ganley’s recently advertised anti-abortion views will not hurt him in this constituency.

None the less, winning a seat will be a very tall order for Ganley. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael won more than half of the vote between them at the 2004 European elections in the constituency, while the most recent Red C monthly tracking poll showed the two parties attracting the support of 60 per cent of voters there.

So, one seat each for the two main parties is probably inevitable, meaning Ganley will need to target the seat of Independent MEP Marian Harkin. She is a strong local performer with a network of support throughout the constituency, and will be difficult to shift. Sinn Féin also enjoys strong support, and took 65,000 votes in 2004.

Ganley’s past criticism of the Common Agricultural Policy may not be palatable for many rural voters. He will face continuing questions about the funding of the organisation, questions he has been unable to answer with any degree of consistency since the organisation was founded.

Another difficulty for Ganley is that the political landscape has shifted so wildly since the first referendum. It is hard to predict what effect this will have on the European elections.

At one level, there is almost certain to be massive anti-government sentiment among voters. However, whether this translates into support for a candidate who favours a different relationship with the EU is another question entirely.

The most recent tracking poll for this newspaper a fortnight ago showed political support had swung in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, including among those who voted against it the last time.

If the worsening recession is pushing voters towards the perceived protection of the EU, then it will make it more difficult for Ganley.

Defeat in the European elections would undermine his opposition to Lisbon in any subsequent referendum. Last year’s referendum result was a stunning success for Ganley. But he is discovering that in politics, success just brings a whole new set of problems.

Call for Pope not to meet Ganely before EU Elections and Lisbon 2

see This and other posts re Robin Matthews here posted 10 march 2009

Matthews and his wife Frances attended the Ganley's eurosceptic dinner in honour of Vaclav klaus see here

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