Call to hold referendum on bailout fund treaty


FORMER MEP Patricia McKenna has called on the Government to hold a separate referendum on the European Stability Mechanism treaty, in addition to the May 31st fiscal treaty vote.

She based her demand on the results of a Red C opinion poll which showed that more than seven in 10 of those interviewed believe the ESM treaty should also be the subject of a referendum vote.

Releasing the results of the poll at a press conference yesterday, the People’s Movement/Gluaiseacht an Phobail said the figures were “casting doubt on the Government’s ability to avoid a referendum on this issue”.

The Government plans to have the ESM treaty ratified through the Oireachtas and it has been advised a referendum is not necessary in this instance.

The poll was commissioned by the Brussels-based EU Democrats, described as “a pan-European alliance of euro-realists”.

The results are based on telephone interviews conducted between May 7th and 9th. A statement was read to respondents explaining the difference between the ESM treaty to set up a permanent bailout fund and the fiscal treaty.

More than half of the respondents, or 53 per cent, said they were aware of the ESM treaty, with 46 per cent unaware and 1 per cent unsure. Awareness was highest among males and respondents over 55.

In terms of political support, levels of awareness were as follows: Fine Gael 63 per cent; Independent 57 per cent; Labour 54 per cent; Fianna Fáil 52 per cent; Sinn Féin 47 per cent. When asked if there should be a separate referendum on the ESM treaty, 72 per cent were in favour, 21 per cent against and 7 per cent undecided.

The highest support for holding a referendum was in the 25-34 age group at 82 per cent where the level of awareness of the treaty was 45 per cent.

The lowest level of support for a vote was 60 per cent in the 55-64 age group, where the level of awareness was 62 per cent.

In terms of political sympathies, the group most strongly in favour of a referendum were Sinn Féin supporters at 87 per cent and Independents at 85 per cent with Fine Gael supporters least in favour of a vote on the ESM treaty at 52 per cent.

Ms McKenna, chairwoman of the People’s Movement and president of the EU Democrats, said the fact that 73 per cent of Labour supporters wanted an ESM treaty referendum raised questions for Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

“Is he going to basically ignore his own party support in relation to a demand for a referendum on this treaty, or is he just going to railroad ahead with the treaty as it stands, trying to rubber-stamp it in the Dáil?”

She said the “huge amount” of public support for a separate referendum, “puts a huge question mark over the Government’s attempts to fast-track the ESM treaty through the Dáil”.

Ms McKenna added: “This is irrespective of whether people are on the Yes or No side, whether they support the treaty or whether they don’t support the treaty.

“The key message here is that the vast majority of people in this country want a say on it.” At an earlier press conference by the National Platform, Ms McKenna said a Government leaflet on the fiscal treaty was “a blatant breach” of the McKenna judgment.

In 1995, Ms McKenna argued successfully at the Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional for the Government to spend taxpayers’ money promoting one side in a referendum campaign and she said yesterday: “Why is the Government giving money to the Referendum Commission on the one hand to inform the public and then doubling-up with €2 million of our money which they can’t afford to spend on putting out, as they call it, ‘objective information’? Now, it’s clearly subjective.”