From Daniel Hannan
The Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek, is a mild-mannered man. Although he is no great enthusiast for the Lisbon Treaty, his coalition partners have forced a compromise on him: his government will not stand in the way of ratification if the Irish change their minds; but he won't seek to bully them in the mean time.
Fair enough, you'd have thought. The Czech Republic has now assumed the presidency of the EU, and Mr Topolánek duly came before the European Parliament to set out his position. The Lisbon Treaty was nothing to get excited about, he told MEPs. The EU could work perfectly well with it, or with the existing Nice arrangements. Although he personally would vote for Lisbon, he could see the point of view of those who disagreed.
"Telling member states in advance that they have to ratify the treaty," he argued, with reference to Ireland, "and that they do not have the right to decide whether to approve it or not, is absurd".
Who could disagree with such a moderate defence of the democratic principle?
Step forward Proinsias de Rossa, formerly of the Workers' Party, now an MEP for the Irish Labour Party. "I am appalled by your disgraceful comment here this morning that Lisbon is worse than Nice," he raged. "That is not only untrue, it is divisive and it is a breach of trust. You have to seriously consider withdrawing your comments here this morning in relation to Lisbon".
here if you don't believe me.) This, remember, is a treaty rejected by a majority of Proinsias's own constituents in Dublin.
You see? Even to be pro-Lisbon, but insufficiently enthusiastic about it, is deemed unacceptable. (Yes, those were his exact words: watch the clip
Not that I want to pick on Proinsias. Similar comments were made by dozens of MEPs, who tore into the Czechs for being too pro-American, too pro-British, insufficiently committed to political integration. Still, it is pretty shocking that the position taken by 54 per cent of Irish voters is now being dismissed by their own elected representatives (Proinsias is not the first) as plain wrong.