Bailout veto opportunity now gone, says judge


THE REFERENDUM Commission has said the Government has already decided not to exercise its veto in relation to the emergency bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, and the opportunity is now gone.

The independent commission, chaired by High Court judge Mr Justice Kevin Feeney, launched its information campaign yesterday in Dublin.

One of its key conclusions is that the text of the treaty is clear in saying that a No vote would mean that Ireland could not access ESM funds in the event of a future bailout.

No campaigners have argued that the Government could prevent the ESM coming into being should the treaty be rejected by exercising a veto over article 136 of the treaty for the functioning of the EU.

This is a separate treaty and article 136 deals with how the euro is governed by states using the currency. The article is being amended to facilitate the establishment of the ESM. Sinn Féin, in particular, has maintained that the Government can veto its ratification and thus prevent the ESM from coming into being.

But responding to questions on this matter, Mr Justice Feeney said the Government could have exercised a veto but had already agreed to establish the ESM and the opportunity for a veto was now gone.

He did say that both article 136 and the ESM treaty remained to be ratified by the Dáil and the Seanad and this would happen after the referendum. Mr Justice Feeney accepted that it was theoretically possible that the Dáil and Seanad could refuse ratification but that was unlikely given the composition of the Oireachtas.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said yesterday that a veto was still open to Government. However, the Department of Finance, in a statement yesterday, said the article 136 amendment was not a precondition for the ESM being established. “So while we can technically delay or veto this particular amendment, it would not have the effect of vetoing the ESM.”

The commission chairman said that questions on other potential sources of funding – such as a separate application to the IMF – were outside the remit of the commission.

“In relation to the other sources, the treaty is silent, and whether or not those sources are available is a matter for discussion and debate outside the ambit of this commission and absolutely within the ambit of the press and the media,” he said.

The five-person commission has published a 12-page booklet that will be distributed to two million homes throughout the State next week. The booklet has stated that the treaty is about strengthening the rules designed to make governments keep a balanced budget between their income and spending.

Mr Justice Feeney, asked about when the operation of the one-twentieth deficit reduction would come into being, said that that was a matter on which it had yet to complete its deliberations.

Asked had the commission been given sufficient time, he said the booklet was ready for publication a week earlier than the comparable booklet prepared for last October’s referendums.

He said the commission believed that next week was the most appropriate time to distribute the leaflet.

He said it was also helped by the fact that the referendum was the “only show in town” and was not taking place on the same day as another referendum or election, as happened last autumn.