Fiscal treaty

Ireland begins bitter referendum debate

Published on 1 February 2012 at 12:47


“Fiscal treaty designed to avoid Irish referendum,” headlines the Irish Times. According to Irish law, all new EU treaties must be put to a national plebiscite. However, an anonymous EU official has told the Dublin daily that the fiscal treaty agreed on Monday January 30 “was specifically crafted” to avoid the scenario of the Lisbon treaty referendum of 2008, which was rejected, thus delaying its coming into force.

Conceding that the decision to hold a vote could well go to the Irish Supreme Court, the official argued that a referendum has “nothing to do with democracy.” The Irish Times notes that –

While it is not absolutely clear which parts of the treaty were written to suit the Government, Irish officials are known to have sought scope to adopt strict new limits to debt and deficits in legislation rather than through the Constitution.

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Nevertheless, Irish opposition parties including Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are lining up mount a legal challenge to force a vote, writes the Irish Examiner, in a context of increasingly bitter debates in parliament.

Irish Times European correspondent Arthur Beesley notes that while Ireland has been “no stranger” to “intrusive external oversight of its internal affairs” since the €85 billion EU/ECB/IMF bailout of 2010, the new treaty could bind the country to such oversight “forever.”

It is one thing, of course, to submit to the unforgiving writ of the troika in an emergency situation in which the State is shut out of private debt markets. It is quite another to accept the hands of future governments will be tied by Ireland’s expanding obligations to Europe – even when the State can stand on its own two feet again.

Beesley also suggest that if the mooted referendum were rejected, this “would seriously impede Ireland’s return to markets.”

More importantly still is the fact that countries which do not ratify the pact within 13 months will have no further right to aid from the permanent bailout fund of the European Stability Mechanism. Observers may well see something decidedly nasty in that provision, which was a German idea.

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