Commission denies getting its facts wrong


THE INDEPENDENT Referendum Commission has denied claims by campaigners on the No side that it is giving out inaccurate information in its booklet on the fiscal treaty.

Responding to a complaint by Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, the commission rejected his contention that it had got the facts wrong on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the permanent EU rescue funding programme.

In a letter to the chairman, Mr Justice Kevin Feeney, the Dublin MEP said the commission incorrectly suggested Ireland could not gain access to ESM funding if it voted against what he calls the “austerity treaty”.

“In the section dealing with the ‘Effect of treaty on financial assistance/bail-out mechanisms’, the booklet states that ‘any future bailout could not involve access to this particular source of funding’.

“The source of funding referred to is the ESM. This is inaccurate and represents a prejudging of political decisions that have yet to be taken.

“By just stating that 17 states have signed the ESM without explaining that this does not equate to ratification, the text of the booklet also gives the impression that the ESM is already in place. This is not the case. The Oireachtas has yet to vote on it, as are the majority of member states’ national parliaments,” Mr Murphy wrote.

In reply, Judge Feeney said the commission’s guide simply “describes what the treaty states on the subject of access to the ESM”.

The letter continues: “It does not, nor does it seek to, prejudge any future political decisions.”

The chairman points out that the guide states: “The ESM is the permanent EU bailout mechanism which is expected to be established by July 2012.”

TD Richard Boyd Barrett, of the United Left Alliance, said in a statement: “The chair of the commission Mr Justice Kevin Feeney’s claim that the ESM veto has expired is incorrect.

“It is a political and not a technical issue – this Government still has to vote through the ESM Bill. As such the veto is still in play.

“It is grossly inaccurate and biased to say, as the commission does in its booklet, that a No vote will exclude us from ESM funding.

“It is not for the commission president to predict future votes in the Dáil – does he possess a crystal ball? ”

The 12-page booklet will be distributed to homes throughout the State next week.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said, in Dublin, the fact that a number of Labour councillors were opposing the treaty was “not unexpected” and would not create a problem for the party.

Commenting on the views of his French Socialist colleague François Hollande, he said: “If the outcome of the French presidential election is a president who is promoting jobs and growth, that is something that will be very welcome.”

Former taoiseach John Bruton said at the launch of the Meath Fine Gael campaign last night: “Some people are describing the treaty as an ‘austerity treaty’ because it places limits on government borrowing. But borrowing is not a cure for austerity. Borrowing is often just a means of postponing austerity.”

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said Sinn Féin was “misleading people into believing that Ireland can block the establishment of Europe’s permanent bailout mechanism, the ESM”.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD said, in Chicago, that multinational companies were considering investing in Ireland, but were “seriously concerned” about the possible fallout of a No vote.

Speaking at the launch of Fine Gael’s referendum website voteyes2012.ieMinister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said: “We want to ensure that everyone is armed with as much information as possible on the stability treaty.”

The Referendum Commission’s website is