They came. They saw. They bombed at the box office. And now they're hissing and spewing writs at each other like panicked rats on a sinking ship. Gratifying though it is, the demise of Libertas is an unedifying spectacle. A month ago, Declan Ganley was predicting a landslide 100-seat victory in the European parliament. On 5 June, voters across the continent sent his motley crew packing with their tail and the grand sum of minus-two seats between their legs. One anonymous Libertas source has been quoted saying its Dublin candidate, the beatific anti-abortionist Caroline Simons, was so insufferable even her own campaign workers couldn't bring themselves to vote for her on polling day.
Yippee! Democracy works. Libertas spent money like a Russian oligarch in Tiffanys but the votes could not be bought. Liberating Lech Walesa from the Gdansk history vaults to formally launch the campaign cost a reputed €50,000. The Dutch branch is threatening to sue Ganley over its squandered €350,000 expenditure. If the average Libertas campaign spend was less than that – say €200,000 – and 603 candidates stood under its banner, the total bill works out at a nine-digit sum.
It wasn't just the money, though. The dirty-tricks department went into overdrive. Libertas claimed endorsements by prominent Europeans who robustly denied they were supporters. Those denials got credence from Naoise Nunn's admission that the anti-Lisbon treaty referendum campaign he directed for Libertas last year resorted to "scare-mongering and disinformation". Despite the spondulicks and the phantom Frankenstein of military conscription that purportedly sent Irish mothers scurrying to vote 'No', Europe's voters were still able to discern the yuck factor. To put it more eloquently, as did the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, they recognised a mixum-gatherum of "anti-semites, homophobes and anti-migrants" and said no thank you.
So today we should be dancing on Libertas's grave. But we can't, because the corpse is busy in Brussels rattling its old bones.
Brian Cowen and Micheál Martin pursued the politically advisable, pragmatic and expedient option last week when they browbeat the EU into granting Ireland certain guarantees to fireproof Lisbon Two. Even poor, beleaguered Gordon Brown caved in, knowing it was another of the thousand cuts that will kill him in the end. Last week was a week to be ashamed of being Irish. Not because, once again, we were screeching up to Europe's door with a begging bowl in one hand and a gun-to-the-head in the other. What was mortifying was our exhibition of ourselves as a shower of un-self-aware hypocrites.
Europe, we said, in all conscience (that terror-inducing Irish weapon) we cannot promise to save this treaty unless you guarantee the most valued core principles of our people. Right, said Europe, what are they? Neutrality and the abortion ban, we said. Europe kicked itself under the table, suppressed a chuckle and hatched a concordat.
If neutrality and the pseudo-abortion ban are our two most cherished positions I dread to think what might be the disposable ones. We don't even sufficiently care about either to discuss them from one end of a decade to the next. They are just there – like the midlands and men called Sean. What's to discuss? We have let the neutrality we hold so dear slide into a reflex cop-out inertia rather than hone it as the sort of muscular anti-war stance demonstrated by the Swedes, for instance. We don't like talking about it because of all the historical baggage that comes with it.
As for abortion? This is the apogee of our two-facedness. Nearly two decades ago, the Supreme Court delivered a celebrated judgment on abortion containing a rebuke of the legislature for its cowardice on the issue and still the legislative desert flourishes. Justice minister Dermot Ahern regards the passage of a blasphemy bill as a matter of urgency following a recent Supreme Court ruling but sees no need whatsoever to respond in kind to the X Case judgment. Twenty-six years ago, we passed a constitutional amendment on abortion that has proved to be a legal landmine and governments ever since have been trying to shore it up. The fact is that abortion is legal in Ireland under the X judgment and all the single European acts, Maastricht and Lisbon protocols in the world will not change that.
What weird, perverted people our fellow Europeans must think us when they see us coming, trumpeting our conscience and our anti-abortionism. Not to mention our hypocrisy. Are the Irish not the same people, they surely ask one another, who gave us the Ryan report about the sadistic brutalisation of born-children?