Government to set date for fiscal treaty referendum today


THE GOVERNMENT will announce a date for the referendum on the fiscal stability treaty in the Dáil this afternoon. It will be in late May or early June.

At its weekly meeting this morning, the Cabinet will approve the date based on a memorandum brought by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is abroad this week on a trade trip to China.

In his absence, Mr Gilmore is expected to announce the date of the referendum in a short speech to the Dáil.

The Tánaiste is expected to lead the Government’s campaign for a Yes vote and is expected to lay out a timetable for the publication of the legislation backing the referendum, as well as the setting up of the Referendum Commission which will coincide with the passage of the Bill.

Both Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore have said they are confident the people will give their backing to the treaty, which proposes to impose new fiscal disciplines on each euro zone state, including a gradual deficit reduction to 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product. There will be sanctions imposed for countries which fail to meet the deficit targets.

In a number of interviews, Mr Gilmore has said the referendum will involve decisions on economic stability and recovery.

Other Ministers, including Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, have said it will be a decision on whether Ireland wants to be in or out of the euro.

Those parties and groups which oppose the treaty have argued that it will make austerity permanent and lead to a loss of Irish sovereignty over its fiscal affairs.

While the Government has said negotiations on the €30 billion promissory note for Anglo Irish Bank was not connected to the referendum, a decision by the European Central Bank to defer the demand for payment of the first instalment of €3.1 billion, due by the end of the month, will be seen as a boost for the Government’s campaign.

Mr Kenny, speaking in China at the weekend, confirmed the announcement of the date is likely today.

He is thought to favour a date in late May so as not to clash with the European soccer finals or with the Eucharistic Congress.

Both events are taking place in June.