Nine areas of division set out by all-party EU committee

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

A REPORT from an all-party group of TDs and Senators on the fiscal treaty referendum has highlighted nine areas where there are significant divisions between Yes and No campaigners.

The Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee has launched a report that summarises the contributions made by 61 people to the committee setting out their views on the treaty.

The witnesses included the leaders of all the main political parties, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as well as economists, legal academics, political scientists, members of interest groups such as business, trade unions and agriculture, and pro- and anti-treaty campaigners.

The committee, chaired by Labour Party TD, Dominic Hannigan, has summarised all the contributions in the report and has also included a chapter identifying the main issues that have divided both sides.

The nine areas where both sides have disagreed include the purpose of the treaty; its economic effect on Ireland; the debt brake rule and what it means; the balanced budget rule and what it means; what alternatives, if any, are there to European Stability Mechanism (ESM) funding?; consequences of a Yes vote; consequences of a No vote; prospects for recovery; and whether or not the ESM can be effectively vetoed.

The report says that supporters argued the purpose of the treaty was to ensure proper and disciplined fiscal control throughout the EU, while opponents countered by contending it protected financial institutions rather than citizens and institutionalised austerity on a permanent basis.

Likewise, on the economic effect of the treaty, those against said it would delay economic growth by disallowing stimulus or investment, while proponents said it would make fiscal arrangements sustainable and manageable, and also give certainty through the backstop of the ESM.

Other areas where opinions were split included the impact of the balanced-budget rule and the effect of the debt-brake rule (which will require the deficit to fall over time to 0.5 per cent of GDP).

There were also varied views on the inclusion of a clause making access to the ESM conditional on ratification of the treaty.

No advocates said this was designed to “frighten the public”.

Several speakers, the report notes, outlined alternative funding arrangements, including access to the IMF, new wealth taxes.

The alternatives were all challenged.

In addition, there were contrasting opinions between both sides on the effect of a No vote, with Yes campaigners asserting it would have very serious long-term consequences.

Opponents of the treaty said a rejection by voters in the referendum would force a renegotiation of the ESM treaty.

On the legal aspects, there were contributions about the possible consequences of the Government refusing to ratify article 136 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union, which provides a basis in EU law for the ESM.

There were different views from both sides – opponents arguing that it could provide Ireland with a veto to prevent the establishment of the ESM and supporters contending that article 136 was not required to enable the ESM come into being.

The cross-party group included Oireachtas members who support and oppose the treaty.

Reflecting the group’s composition and diversity, Mr Hannigan said: “The report does not make recommendations on how the Irish people should vote. Rather it comprehensively distils the pros and cons presented about the treaty.” He said members of the committee on both sides of the debate agreed it was a balanced document. The senior Sinn Féin member on the committee Pádraig MacLochlainn agreed, although he said for true balance to be achieved the witness list would have been split evenly between both camps.

A majority of those who gave evidence advocated a Yes vote.

The independent TD Mick Wallace said at the launch that while he opposed the treaty he thought the Yes side would prevail because the No camp was divided and poorly organised.

Mr MacLochlainn, when asked for a response, said: “From a Sinn Féin perspective we are delighted with our campaign.”

He said the party postered extensively throughout the State, had organised public meetings, and had put a lot of work into an analysis of the treaty. Timmy Dooley of Fianna Fáil and Paschal Donohoe of Fine Gael both emphasised their respective views that a Yes vote was essential for national recovery.

The report, including helpful summaries of all 61 contributions, is available online at