As the Republic of Ireland's glorious presidency of the European Union enters the home stretch, the ill-will increases. For instance, Fintan O'Toole, writing in the Irish Times today, is not happy:
This is, in some respects, a crap country.
The trouble is -- he's right. Fintan is in particular bothered by the June referendum seeking to remove the automatic right to Irish citizenship based on birth in Ireland, promoted, as he points out, by politicians who were selling Irish passports to dubious Saudi businessmen who later figured in the 9/11 investigation. And it's not the well-heeled Saudis who are the target of this particular referendum, but a supposed demographic timebomb of citizen-spongers created by fly-in baby deliveries under Ireland's current citizenship regime. Especially people from states wishing to join the European Union.
But to counteract all the messy publicity about the various doors slamming shut to those from eastern Europe (and those doors are being slammed throughout Western Europe), there will at least be a Day of Welcomes in and around Dublin on Mayday to greet the 10 new EU arrivals. Sadly, this Day of Welcomes seems to consist mostly of photo-ops in which various Very Important Persons will assure each other of their Importance, and then hop into waiting limos to proceed to the next such event.
And as the blog GUBU points out, the journey is the destination for these motorcades -- check out her account of how one motorcade made what had to be a conscious decision to go through rather than around a town, all the better to be seen by the plebs.
In fact, we had to laugh last week when we saw European Parliament President Pat Cox, showing full evidence of years of Brussels lunches and dinners, appear on the BBC World News to assert that for Blair to get his EU Constitutional referendum passed, all that was required was to get beyond the tabloid myths about the EU. [Pat will feature prominently in the Day of Welcomes, by the way] Pat doesn't seem to understand that there's the EU of the gravy trains for the people like him, and the EU of 15, going on 25, cantankerous nationalities who aren't especially excited about many of their fellow EU nationalities and who are especially unexcited about people like Pat. In that sense, Ireland's increasing irritation with the EU makes it an accurate baromer of the overall European mood.
UPDATE: Typical EU gravy train joke: What does MEP (Member of the European Parliament) really stand for? More Expenses Please.