Coalition confident of stimulus deal before fiscal vote


A DRAFT EU agreement on a stimulus package could be in place before Ireland votes in the fiscal treaty referendum at the end of the month.

As the focus across Europe shifted to the need for growth, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was confident a stimulus package could be put together to accompany the treaty.

“I am, absolutely,” he said. “It is no secret that we have been at this now for six months.” He said he welcomed that French socialist president-elect François Hollande had made it an issue.

Specific proposals are expected to be brought to a summit of European leaders in Brussels on May 23rd. Mr Kenny said a deal could involve matters relating to the future role of the European Investment Bank, euro bonds and creation of adequate firewalls. He expected that European leaders would leave the EU summit and return in June with a series of proposals that could be decided upon. There were particular areas of interest to Ireland and those would be advanced vigorously on May 23rd and afterwards.

Mr Kenny was speaking in Drogheda, where he attended the national Famine memorial day commemoration.

Demands for a European growth strategy are expected to dominate the first meeting tomorrow between Mr Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The defeat of Dr Merkel’s CDU party in North Rhine-Westphalia elections yesterday will embolden opposition social democrats (SPD) and Greens to step up opposition at national level to her austerity-first approach to the euro zone crisis.

With cross-party talks in Athens deadlocked last night, the uncertain political situation in Greece is set to dominate scheduled talks between euro zone finance ministers in Brussels this evening.

The fiscal treaty obliges member states to keep budget deficits and public debts within tight limits. It will go to a vote here on May 31st.

Ahead of the summit later this month, Government departments have been told to draw up lists of capital projects with potential to create thousands of jobs for which funding would be sought if EU leaders agree on the package at the meeting to be held a week before polling day here.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Government priority was to make growth and employment a key part of the solution to the economic crisis.

“Just as we can’t build up our economy without also fixing the hole in our public finances, neither can we fully close that gap without creating jobs and growth.

“And what is true for Ireland is also true for our fellow euro zone member states,” he told the James Connolly commemoration in Arbour Hill yesterday.

The latest opinion poll on the fiscal treaty referendum shows a hardening in support for a Yes vote. Any deal on a stimulus package could seal ratification of the pact.

Meanwhile, businessman and Libertas founder Declan Ganley entered the campaign on the No side. He said the Government’s failure to secure a deal on Ireland’s bank debt was unacceptable. However, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste insisted the bank debt issue was being dealt with by the Government and was not relevant to the referendum campaign.

A group of Independent TDs and an MEP will today call for the referendum to be postponed. The group includes MEP Marian Harkin, who is calling for a Yes vote, and No campaigners such as TDs Catherine Murphy and Maureen O’Sullivan. Shane Ross and Finian McGrath are also expected to attend.

A clear majority of the electorate now supports the referendum, according to a Red C poll in the Sunday Business Post. Support for a Yes vote increased to 53 per cent, up six points, while the No vote declined four points to 31 per cent. Sixteen per cent of people remain undecided.