Ibec warns delay on referendum date could damage business confidence


BUSINESS GROUP Ibec has called on the Government to set a date for the referendum on the fiscal stability treaty at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting. The group is pushing for a date in late May or early June.

An “unnecessary” delay would damage business confidence and create further uncertainty about Ireland’s relationship with Europe, it said, adding that there was “no reason” why the referendum could not take place before the summer.

Three-quarters of the 300 chief executives surveyed by Ibec last month said ratification of the pact by Ireland was important to the future prosperity of their businesses.

“Until the referendum takes place, a question mark hangs over Ireland’s relationship with Europe,” said Ibec director of international affairs Brendan Butler.

“The treaty is much more straightforward than previous treaties and involves a relatively small number of new budgetary rules to ensure future economic crises are avoided,” he said.

“A Yes vote will not solve all our problems, but it is part of the reforms needed to get the European economy back on track.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined last week to specify his preferred date for the referendum, but indicated that the Government did not want the issue to drag on.

Speaking during his trip to New York, to take part in “Ireland Day” on Wall Street, Mr Kenny said the decision on a date would be made “as a Government”.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has suggested that there are “two windows” for the referendum – late May/early June; or, secondly, late June/early July.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has also expressed a desire for the referendum to take place before the Dáil breaks for its summer recess in July.

He has said that his preference would be to conduct the vote before the European Championship soccer finals, which begin on June 8th.

The Taoiseach announced on February 29th that there would be a referendum on the treaty on the advice of the Attorney General.

Ibec director general Danny McCoy has previously said it would be a “travesty” if the referendum campaign and the associated “noise” damaged economic confidence.

The treaty has been described as a “bankers’ treaty” and “a continuation of the bank bailout” by People Before Profit TD Joan Collins.