Recovery is fragile and this is not the time to take risks


OPINION:The stability pact is one part of the solution aimed at stabilising the euro and ensuring good housekeeping for future generations

THE IRISH people have been through a lot. And the reality is the country still has a long way to go on the road to recovery.

But now is a time when we need to be sure of the next steps we take as a nation. After weeks of arguments and counter-arguments, and the delivery of more information than ever before, the decision on the stability treaty is now in your hands. This is your choice and no one else’s and I am urging everybody to participate in making this decision.

I am asking the Irish people to see this decision as a positive step. To draw on the spirit with which we have together started our recovery over the last couple of years.

I’ve seen that spirit up and down the country – manifesting itself in new small businesses, in our growing food sector, in the contributions of both public and private sector workers and in the winning by Ireland of new investment and jobs every week.

I’m recommending a Yes vote on Thursday so that we can protect that recovery and investment. I’m recommending a Yes vote to help accelerate it. Voting No would slow us down and bring great uncertainty at a time Ireland definitely doesn’t need it. Like returning to health after a period of illness, everyone knows that recovery is fragile in the early stages and it’s not a time to take risks.

I want you to understand I’m not claiming that life will be much easier and better starting the day after a Yes vote to this referendum. The stability treaty is just one step we need to take, but it’s an important one.

The stability treaty is a tool to help prevent the mistakes of the past being repeated. Its rules will help deliver governments that work properly, that look after the people’s money properly and that create the climate for confidence and investment in new jobs.

The economic crisis has had enormously difficult consequences for people and their families. I understand the pain that people have endured and the daily, desperate anxiety that is being faced by people whose household budgets have become an enormously difficult balancing act. My Government will never, ever, forget this as it takes the tough decisions to get this country back into shape.

Every person who is able to work and cannot get a job is one too many. Every company held back from employing more people is one too many. Every potential investor having reason to doubt Ireland’s determination to sort out its problems is one too many. I meet investors every week and they have so much confidence in us right now; but they are asking if we’re going to stay the course through these choppy waters. Voting Yes gives these job creators the reassurance they need. Voting No undermines that confidence.

The stability treaty is not the solution to all problems in Europe but it provides a good foundation stone in setting parameters for good housekeeping with national budgets. The fiscal rules are fair and balanced, with appropriate flexibilities such as the structural deficit aspects being country-specific.

Many people in this country will recognise that balanced budget rules that will prevent unsustainable spending on the back of temporary revenues, such as a property bubble, are badly needed. Many elements of the treaty are of course already enshrined in EU law.

The treaty also offers us a vital insurance policy – access to the European Stability Mechanism. Ireland really needs to be dead certain of that access for two reasons. Firstly, to underpin the desirability of Irish Government bonds if, as planned, we go back to the markets next year. Secondly, if for reasons beyond our control we cannot raise funds in the markets at sustainable rates, access to the ESM will be critical.

The fact is that there is no other certain source of those funds.

The treaty is one part of the solution aimed at stabilising the euro and ensuring good housekeeping for future generations. The other part of the solution involves growth-promoting steps both here in Ireland and across Europe. This has been at the core of my interventions at all European summits since becoming Taoiseach. Last Wednesday night I argued, along with François Hollande and other EU leaders, for an ambitious plan with real and concrete measures to emerge from the June summit. These will come in parallel with the stability treaty.

Stability for the euro; good housekeeping in managing the people’s money; investor confidence; European countries working better together and helping each other – it is because of these elements that I signed the stability treaty and the Government has now put the treaty to the people to have their say.

I remain focused on the treaty’s positives for Ireland, but there are some serious questions which the treaty’s opponents have to answer.

Exactly how does voting No help us get a better deal on bank debts?

Exactly how is austerity going to magically disappear if we vote No when in 2012 we’re spending €13 billion more than we’re raising?

How are our gardaí, our Defence Forces, our schools, our hospitals and our social protection going to be paid for if we don’t return to the markets next year and, having voted No, we don’t have access to the only certain source of funds?

What is the logic of seeking to somehow “veto” the ESM, which is a solidarity fund between euro zone member states?

Much of the opposition to this treaty has exposed the politics of negativity, of defeat, of opportunism and of fantasy economics. I prefer the politics of solutions, of solid recovery, of balancing budgets over time, while always remembering to protect those most in need, and of promoting Ireland’s many strengths as a location for investment and jobs.

This Thursday, the Government is seeking the people’s permission and their authorisation to ratify the stability treaty. It is in your hands. I hope that the positivity and spirit that has put us on the road to recovery shows through loud and clear and that we vote Yes on May 31st.

Enda Kenny TD is Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael

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