Independent TD takes legal action over EU treaties

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

INDEPENDENT TD for Donegal South West Thomas Pringle has brought a High Court challenge over what he says will be the “far-reaching” effects of the referendum on the fiscal treaty.

Mr Pringle claims the Government intends to use a Yes vote in the referendum to push through another treaty in relation to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and to change an existing treaty on the functioning of the EU itself without putting these matters to a vote.

He wants the High Court to examine the legality of this because, he says, the fiscal treaty is intertwined with the ESM treaty and an amendment to an existing treaty.

While his action will not affect the holding of the referendum, Mr Pringle says, if the court finds that the ESM treaty is unlawful, there will be a question over the validity of a Yes vote in this month’s referendum. He claims the ESM treaty will set up a €500 billion bailout fund which will give the power to an ESM institution to call on Ireland to contribute more than €11 billion to that fund in various forms of capital.

That is the equivalent of about one-third of Government revenue for last year and the ESM can increase that figure at any time with no limit, he claims.

In effect, the ESM can direct the State to raise sovereign debt, give the money so raised to it and can then decide whether and how it is to be spent, he says.

Mr Justice Roderick Murphy yesterday gave lawyers for Mr Pringle permission to serve short notice on the Government of their intention to seek an expedited hearing.

The application was made with only one side represented and the judge made it returnable to next week.

Mr Pringle argues that the changes proposed are so fundamental they should also require the approval of the Irish people.

He wants the court to consider whether the ESM treaty – the second treaty which he says the Government will push through without a vote – is in breach of existing EU principles which have been approved in previous referendums.

He also wants the court to examine the legality of an amendment to an existing treaty which, he says, will also be pushed through without a vote if the May 31st referendum is passed.

This will be an amendment to article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. He wants the court to look at this amendment before any further action is taken by Government to approve it.

This amendment is being adopted under a so-called “simplified revision procedure” which is legally wrong and should also be subject to a constitutional referendum, he claims.

While he welcomed the fiscal treaty referendum, he believes that due to intense pressures on the Government, the need for referendums on these other matters has not been fully scrutinised.

He says he has brought the case to assist such scrutiny.