Stephen Collins Bothers Me

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Stephen Collins bothers me. Every time I read his Irish Times column I get an uncomfortable feeling. Something just doesn’t seem right.

At first I thought it was because my views were diametrically opposed to his. Maybe it was the ideological gulf between us that bothered me.

But then I realised that I read a great many writers who, despite holding opposing views to mine, are informative, interesting and challenging.

I then wondered was it because he is a master of lazy argumentation; one of those writers whose arguments clumsily shift from one point to another claiming that their sequence proves a point when clearly it does not.

But, undoubtedly true as this charge is, I wasn’t convinced it was the cause of my unease.

Then, on the last Saturday of December while reading his end of year commentary on the Eurozone crisis, I suddenly realised what it was. I found what bothered me about Stephen Collins.

It is his blatant disregard for the facts; his caviller attitude to the truth; his misrepresentation of events; and his blunt and brazen dishonesty that really gets under my skin.

In his article, published in the Irish Times on Dec 31, Collins made a series of claims some of which I disagree with; some of which of which are unfounded; and some of which are simply untrue.

Let’s look at them in turn.

Collin’s argues that 2012 will be the year in which Ireland’s membership of the Euro will be decided.

This is nonsense. Ireland is a member of the Euro. No political party is advocating a withdrawal from the common currency. A recent Eurobarometer poll indicated that 78% of people in the state wanted to remain in currency. No EU member state is arguing against Ireland’s continued membership. There is no mechanism for the expulsion of a member from the Euro.

So contrary to Collin’s claim, as long the Euro makes it to the end of 2012 Ireland will remain a member.

Collin’s then claims that the survival of the Euro is dependent on the passing of the inter-governmental treaty currently being negotiated in Brussels. He makes this argument despite the fact that almost every reputable economic commentator has questioned the relevance of the treaty’s content to the causes of the instability in the Eurozone.

Indeed many seasoned experts are arguing that if implemented the inter-government treaty may deepen the causes of instability.

In fairness to Collins this argument is not dishonest; it’s just not supported by the facts.

Collins goes on to make the bizarre claim that the government is ‘rightly…doing everything possible to ensure the country stays in the Euro.’ The implication is that there is some threat to our Euro membership.

There is no such threat. This is an invention of Collins’ used to bolster his argument.

In a transparent attempt to discredit those of us who want a referendum on the treaty and who are willing to take the Government to the High Court on the matter Collins described us as ‘anti-EU campaigners’.

Stephen rightly knows that opposing the current direction of EU integration or the economic and fiscal policies advocated by some member states is not the same as opposing the EU itself. But why let facts get in the way of argument.

Collins then states that ‘the greatest losers from and Irish exit from the euro would be the Irish people’. In my view he is right. This is why neither politicians nor the electorate are advocating such a course of action and why is it not a credible proposition or likely eventuality.

Finally we get to the nub of Collins’ argument. He says that the logic of a rejection of the proposed inter-governmental treaty would be ‘to exit the euro’. The implication of his argument is that opposition to the treaty is tantamount to opposing the Euro and if rejected in a referendum would result in an Irish exit from the currency.

These arguments are simply false.

I am opposed to the treaty as it is currently drafted. I am opposed to it because it is bad politics and bad economics.

I am not opposed to the Euro or continued Irish membership of it. Indeed my desire to see the currency stabilised is part of the reason why I and many others are opposed to the measures contained in the treaty.

It is bad politics because it undermines democratic decision making at a national and EU level. It is bad economics because it is anti-growth and will make it harder for countries such as Ireland to rebuild our economies, reduce our deficits and get our Government debt to sustainable levels.

Many of us believe that the social consequences of Greek austerity, which Collins graphically details in his article, will be visited on us if we consent to the decade of austerity that the draft inter-governmental treaty will entail.

Stephen thinks we should support the treaty. That’s fair enough. But he clearly does not want to debate the treaty on the basis of its content or consequences.

Instead he prefers to use lies, misrepresentations and lazy arguments as part of a strategy of to frame a false debate.

In December the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan used the same argument. He claimed that any referendum on the treaty would be a referendum on our continued membership of the Euro.

Maybe the Minister, and his cheerleader in the Irish Times have realised that an informed public debate on contents of the treaty and its impact on Ireland and the Eurozone will lead to its rejection in a referendum.

So when the facts don’t support your argument what else have you got but blatant a disregard for those facts; a caviller attitude to the truth; misrepresentation of events; and blunt and brazen dishonesty.

Photo courtesy of Broadsheet.ie. This article was originally posted on Eoin’s new blog Another View.

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One Response

  1. Brian Patterson

    January 11, 2012 6:45 pm

    Fact is that nobody really knows whether staying in the Euro is good or bad for the future of the Republic. Exiting it is certainly a risk strategy. But the Scandinavians(including Iceland ) haven’t found it necessary to join, judging that a measure of fiscal independence widens their range of options. Eoin’s article is challenging and a refreshing antidote to apocolyptic encyclicals from infallibile pundits in the media or the political establishment.The infamous Charlie Mc Creevy once said “Hindsight is 20-20 vision.”For once he was right. But the current and ongoing crisis teaches us that economics is a fable agreed on by bluffers and that economic forecasting is a mixture of roulette and Tarot cards.