Ó Cuív stands by his referendum position

Sat, Jun 2, 2012, 01:00

REACTION:FORMER FIANNA Fáil deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív says he has no regrets about his stance on the fiscal treaty referendum.

Speaking to The Irish Times in his constituency office yesterday, the Galway West TD also reiterated that his stance was “not about party leadership ambitions” but was taken on a matter of principle.

He said he hoped he would be proven wrong on the treaty, but believed there were still “many unresolved issues” and no immediate signs of the stability promised by the Government parties.

He also said there was a message for all politicians, not just Government, in the fact that more affluent areas appeared to vote in favour of the treaty, and more disadvantaged areas voted against.

Mr Ó Cuív resigned from the deputy leadership of Fianna Fáil and its front bench in March after objecting to the party’s support for the fiscal treaty referendum.

He subsequently agreed not to make any public pronouncements on his stance during the campaign.

Tallies yesterday showed his own heartland of Cornamona and Clonbur voted in favour of the treaty, whereas areas of south Connemara voted “No” – by a margin of two to one against in the case of Ros a Mhíl and Tír an Fhia.

However, Mr Ó Cuív said this reflected two trends – an opposition to the EU habitat designations that was far stronger in south Connemara than in his own area further north, and a more general pattern in referendums.

In 1959, when his grandfather, Eamon de Valera, ran for the presidency and also campaigned for electoral reform, he won the election and lost the referendum, held on the same day.

Mr Ó Cuív said his grandfather had campaigned more strongly on the referendum issue but had not succeeded in convincing the electorate.

“I realised from the very beginning that taking a stand for what I believed would not be particularly beneficial to me personally,” Mr Ó Cuív said, but “if you believe something strongly, you should be willing to pay the consequences”.

Relations between himself and his party leader, Micheál Martin, were “fine”, he said, and both were “big enough” to accept a point of difference. “Leadership was never the issue, and it is amazing how everyone wants to tie it into some leadership bid,” he said.

“If I had wanted to go for the leadership, the easiest and simplest thing to do would have been to sit in there as deputy leader, and keep my mouth shut.”

There were some “very urgent issues” facing the Government.

“I hope we get a very significant investment package and that the bank debt is dealt with,” he said.

“Otherwise, the €42 billion that was part of national debt could jump us and bite us towards the end of this decade,” he warned.

“We also need confirmation that there will be no tampering, directly or indirectly, by any device whatsoever, with our corporation tax arrangement.

“I’m very worried . . . the French particularly have been pushing this and I don’t detect any difference between new leader Hollande and his predecessor Sarkozy on this one,” he said.

“And I hope that that is not made the price of an investment package,” Mr Ó Cuív emphasised.

“We have to recognise that we live on an island off an island off the mainland of Europe, and when you are in that particularly geographic location you have to have some counterbalancing measures,” he said.