Resilience in laws needed to deal with crisis, says AG

 

EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS need to be met by extraordinary measures, the Attorney General told the Burren Law School at the weekend, which discussed the Constitution, the fiscal treaty and forthcoming commemoration.

Máire Whelan SC said we needed to establish systemic resilience in our laws and governmental institutions, perhaps including our Constitution, to deal with the present crisis.

Opening the school, she said the concept of systemic resilience came mostly from engineering, and described a system where in crisis situations extraordinary or ingenious responses enabled things to return to normal as soon as possible.

We needed to work towards institutional and administrative mechanisms which can accommodate threats and enhance our ability to withstand shock.

“Of course, talking of systemic resilience is meaningless without an agreed measure of what constitutes ‘normality’ or ‘equilibrium’ in a system or society,” she said.

The stability treaty and the measures that preceded it were an important aspect of the EU’s attempt to establish economic resilience, she said.

Better governance of the euro zone will require more pooling of decision-making, according to Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton. She stressed that access to the European Stability Mechanism would only be available to those countries that sign up to the fiscal treaty as this was stated in the preamble to the treaty, which has the same legal value as the treaty itself.

She said the proposed wording does not have the effect of making the treaty part of our Constitution. “It simply allows us to do what is necessary to ratify and implement the treaty.” More should be done to find a way for our institutions to engage with the European processes, she said. The Lisbon Treaty showed politicians how wide the gap was between the citizen and the European process.

Prof Terrence McDonough of NUI Galway told the school the treaty was not the safe conservative option. “It is the dangerous extreme. It is totally unprecedented, for very good reason,” he said.

We would have to run primary surpluses almost immediately, he said, as the limited deficit we would be allowed under the treaty would include the interest paid on the national debt. “So the Government will have to tax out of the economy every year more than it spends.” That, combined with the impact of austerity on growth, would create instability.

He said there were other sources of funding outside the ESM, including the International Monetary Fund, which would wish to avoid a default in a euro country and taxation on wealth. He said most commentators agreed that Ireland’s debt would be restructured, and there would also be scope for innovative debt instruments.

“A judicious combination of all of these would be better than relying on a single fund to close the funding gap,” he said.

Ms Creighton disputed the claim that money could be raised from outside the ESM or from taxation. “We are doing everything in our power not to tax labour any more,” she said. Referring to the proposal that money could be raised from a wealth tax, she said; “The more you tax people the more people will go offshore.”