Forum told ratification is a 'no brainer'

Fri, May 18, 2012, 01:00

IT WOULD be “economic and financial suicide” for Ireland to reject the fiscal treaty, economist Jim Power told a discussion forum on the treaty yesterday. He said a Yes vote was a “no brainer”. He could see “no upsides whatsoever” to a No vote.

He was one of a panel of four addressing the forum which was organised by the European Movement Ireland, which says it is not campaigning for either side in the referendum but encourages people to get involved with the EU.

If the No vote won, he said, he had no doubt that Ireland could secure funding elsewhere, but that funding would come with much stricter conditions. “And if we think that by rejecting the treaty we’re saying no to austerity, I think we’re delusional. I actually believe that if we reject the treaty we will then really discover what austerity really means because of the nature of the funding in which we will have to engage.”

Dublin businesswoman Glenna Lynch said successive Irish governments had “either lied or misrepresented the realities of our deepening relationship with Europe and every time we approach a referendum we pay the price for that”.

She said this treaty sounded rational in its aim of keeping spending and debts within tight limits. “But the problem is there is nothing in this treaty that would have prevented this crisis nor is there anything in it that would lift us out of the crisis.

“In fact, this effort to homogenise the economic policies of both weak and strong member states is probably going to compound our difficulties into the future,” said Ms Lynch, who came to prominence last year when she asked presidential candidate Seán Gallagher some questions about his business practices during a TV debate.

David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), said the Yes campaign had been “struggling a bit” to identify the treaty’s merits.

And opponents of the treaty were failing to offer a persuasive argument on how to circumvent the “poison pill” which made access to European Stability Mechanism funds conditional on a Yes vote.

He said Ictu had not taken a position on how people should vote because of the complexity of the issue. Congress could not support the treaty because it believed austerity would just beget more austerity instead of promoting growth. Equally, Ictu recognised that Ireland could be potentially vulnerable if it rejected the treaty.

If the referendum was passed, Mr Begg said, the Government should postpone ratification until the end of the year, and in the meantime do all it could to support new French president François Hollande in his bid to get agreement on a stimulus package for Europe.

UCC lecturer and political analyst Dr Jane Suiter warned that Ireland’s future in the euro would be in jeopardy if it rejected the treaty.

“I think if we were to vote No there is a real serious prospect that there would be a redesign of the euro.” This redesign would exclude the southern Europeans and countries such as Ireland.