Postponing May 31st referendum not legally possible


THE REFERENDUM on the fiscal treaty on May 31st cannot be legally postponed as some politicians have demanded, according to the Referendum Commission.

A number of Independent TDs, including Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly, as well MEP Marian Harkin, have called for a postponement of the referendum in the light of developments elsewhere in the European Union.

The Referendum Commission said in a statement it wanted to clarify the legal situation over whether or not the referendum could be postponed.

“The law on the conduct of referendums is set out in the Referendum Act 1994. This provides that, when a Bill containing a proposal for the amendment of the Constitution has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government shall make an order setting the date on which the referendum is to take place.” The commission said that once the order has been made the only circumstance in which it could be changed was if a general election was called. In those circumstances, the Minister is empowered to change the referendum date to the date of the proposed general election.

“There are no other circumstances under the Referendum Act 1994 in which the Minister has the power to postpone a referendum nor has the Minister the power to simply rescind the order to hold a referendum.

“In this case, the Bill, the Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Bill 2012, has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas and the referendum order has been made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government,” said the commission.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore will today caution against creating uncertainty. “The progress that Ireland has made in the past 14 months is in marked contrast to what is happening in Greece,” he will tell a breakfast organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. “Ireland has shown that we are serious about dealing with our problems, and that we have viable path to recovery . . .”

Calling for a No vote, businessman Declan Ganley said it was up to the people to postpone the referendum by voting No. “It makes no sense for Ireland to accept this deal as it currently stands when we have an opportunity to seek a deal that is focused on tackling the real problems, like bank debt, which can be put to us later this year,” said Mr Ganley.

Former trade union leader Blair Horan called on opponents of the treaty, including trade unions, to explain how Ireland will be able to borrow at affordable rates if the treaty is rejected.

“Expecting other member states to borrow to lend to countries that refuse to ratify the stability treaty is wishful thinking in the extreme,” he said.