Tánaiste rejects calls to defer referendum

Tue, May 8, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT has reiterated the need for a Yes vote in the referendum on the stability treaty following the election results in France and Greece.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday dismissed calls for the deferral of the referendum as a response to the victory of François Hollande in the French presidential election. Speaking on his return from a short visit to Paris to join the French Socialist Party’s victory celebrations, Mr Gilmore said there was no question of dismantling the treaty.

“François Hollande has been clear that he supports budgetary discipline. He is not talking about dismantling what has been agreed in the treaty but about accompanying that with measures to support growth,” said Mr Gilmore.

He added that stability and growth were not opposites but went hand in hand and financial stability was vital to attract investment. Mr Gilmore said the election of Mr Hollande was welcome as it meant there was another voice promoting the growth agenda in Europe.

“The treaty is about growth. It is about stabilising the currency so that people who are investing their money in this country will have confidence in the future.

“I think voters understand that it is also about protecting the value of their own currency and they are rightly suspicious of people who want to take away the safety net of emergency funding,” said Mr Gilmore.

Minister of State for Europe Lucinda Creighton also welcomed Mr Hollande’s emphasis on growth and said the Government shared his determination for measures that would deliver it.

“Mr Hollande has stated clearly and unequivocally his commitment to the fiscal rules in the stability treaty. He is also looking for a statement on growth and that is something we would support,” she said. Responding to the Greek election result, she said it only reinforced the argument for a Yes vote to ensure continued investment, stability and confidence in the Irish economy. Ms Creighton said that was why the chief executives of the 15 biggest multinational companies based in Ireland had come together to call for a Yes vote.

“Sinn Féin is propounding fiction by trying to convince people that somehow money will grow on trees if there is a No vote. Soup kitchens like they have in Greece is where the Sinn Féin policy of burning the bondholders will bring us,” she said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the election results in France and Greece would strengthen the hand of all those arguing for a No vote. She said the results were “a massive blow against the failed policy of austerity” and people were sending a clear signal that a new approach based on jobs and growth must be found.

“Claims by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore that the Fine Gael-Labour Government share the new French president’s growth agenda are cynical in the extreme,” said Ms McDonald, who said Mr Hollande opposed the stability treaty in its current form.

“Eamon Gilmore is an enthusiastic supporter of the treaty. François Hollande is standing up for French interests and demanding investment in growth. Eamon Gilmore is implementing a right-wing Fine Gael agenda of cuts, tax hikes and State asset sale,” she said.

Ms McDonald said that at a time when the Irish and euro zone economies desperately needed investment in jobs and growth, the Government and its EU counterparts were proposing the opposite. She said the treaty was bad for jobs and growth and if passed would hamper any prospect of economic recovery.

“On May 31st the people of this State must reinforce the message from France and Greece that austerity is not working. A No vote in Ireland will strengthen the hand of all those arguing for jobs and growth,” said the Sinn Féin TD.

Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy said Mr Gilmore’s appearance in Paris on the night of Mr Hollande’s victory brought to mind Charles Haughey’s dash in 1987 to stand on the podium with Stephen Roche on his victory in the Tour de France.

FISCAL STABILITY PACT: THE GOVERNMENT'S OPTIONS

The stability treaty can be altered only if all of the 25 countries who have signed the document agree to that.

It is not yet clear whether Mr Hollande wants to reopen the treaty provisions or to add a protocol or declaration supporting a growth agenda.

A French refusal to ratify the treaty would not prevent it coming into operation as long as 12 other countries in the 17-member euro zone decided to ratify it.

The treaty will come into effect when it is ratified by 12 euro area countries and the target date is January 1st, 2013.

A reopening of the existing text is regarded as unlikely by Irish Government sources, as a number of countries have already ratified the treaty and others, like Ireland, are in the process of ratification.

One possibility is that the French could seek to have a protocol added to the treaty as Ireland did as part of the process of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty second time around.

All of the other 24 countries would have to agree to the protocol on growth and agree to its ratification.

That would be unlikely to require another referendum in Ireland but it depends on the precise wording of the protocol.

The Irish protocol on Lisbon, whose wording was agreed in consultation with the other EU member states, was ultimately attached to the treaty on the admission of Croatia to the EU.

A French protocol on growth could be attached to the stability treaty or some future treaty.

A more simple and immediate way of meeting the French concerns would be a declaration by the next European Council in June supporting a growth agenda.

The Irish Government has expressed similar sentiments to Mr Hollandes on the need for growth to take priority.

A declaration on growth, which would have little difficulty attracting the support of the other 24 signatories of the stability treaty, is regarded by Irish officials as the most likely option to be taken by Mr Hollande.

It would not require a referendum in Ireland.