Ireland 'can vote again on treaty'


Ireland “can always vote again on treaty changes” if concerns in relation to the fiscal compact are not addressed by Europe, Éamon Ó Cuiv said during a debate on the fiscal treaty referendum yesterday evening.

The TD and a former minister, who resigned as deputy leader of Fianna Fáil in February over his refusal to support the parliamentary party's position on the fiscal compact, was speaking during a public debate in the O’Callaghan Davenport Hotel in Dublin last night.

Mr Ó Cuiv said that Europe was seeking ratification by Ireland of three treaty changes: an amendment of the definition of the treaties governing the European community to include reference to the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism (ESM); a treaty setting up the ESM; and the fiscal compact.

“It is my understanding that the ratification of the first change, that triggers the possibility of the second and third changes, requires the ratification of all member states of the European Union,” he said.

“The Government recently confirmed in the Dáil that the first two treaties will not be ratified until after the referendum. I welcome this…presumably this decision was informed by the possibility the Irish people might reject the fiscal compact…Should that arise I would presume that we would not ratify the first treaty until our concerns are addressed.

“If our concerns are fully addressed we can always vote again on treaty changes,” Mr Ó Cuiv said.

He added that, given that the EU-IMF deal had given us the certainty of funding until 2013, this allowed for time for negotiation on issues including a commitment that the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) and tax harmonisation would not be imposed and a commitment that European banks which lent irresponsibly to Irish banks would shoulder their fair share of the debt.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance Brian Hayes said that “remaining...firmly at the heart of the Eurozone is in Ireland’s long-term interest”, as well as providing an “insurance policy” in the European Stability Mechanism.

“The Government will not be claiming that a simple acceptance of this treaty will immediately resolve our problems...But our considered view is that in accepting this treaty and asking the Irish people to ratify it and support it we will incrementally get the country to a better place because this will engender confidence and stability”.

Mr Hayes said it would be a “bad decision not to endorse the important insurance policy that comes with the ESM by not accepting this treaty”.

Michael McDowell, a barrister and former PD leader and minister for justice, said that voting no to the upcoming fiscal stability referendum would be akin to inflicting a “fatal toxic shock” to our economy.

“A No vote would put Ireland in an even weaker position than the one we’re in already as regards the current economic realities,” he said.

However, he added that, voting yes would not be the end of the road for the debate about Ireland and Europe: “For Ireland the need has emerged as never before for a real, honest debate about Europe’s future”.

Mr McDowell said we should not embark on a process of further political integration because the potential for it to become an “over wielding, undemocratic Europe dominated by states and forces outside our control as citizens is so obvious, it is inevitable”.

He warned against a so-called United States of Europe, cautioning that “a half-baked, well-meaning attempt to achieve it prematurely could well deliver us something which is as rotten as it is powerful”.

Declan Ganley, a businessman and former president of Libertas, which campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty, said that the “European ship is heading for an iceberg because it is carrying unsustainable insolvency through its whole financial system”.

He said that the “inter-governmentalism” which was being witnessed in Europe “means that we end up having to vote on a treaty that has been designed purely to placate the electorate and the readers of Bild in Germany…It does nothing to address the issue of the burden of bank debt that we are carrying so why the hell should we make the readers of Bild happy?”

“There will be another vote if we give the wrong answer,” he said, adding that Ireland needed to send out a message to Europe. If asked the question, how he would vote now, Mr Ganley said: “I would say no, but in this case no means maybe...there is a deal to be done here.”

The debate was chaired by Christopher O’Toole, the secretary of the National Forum and, a centre right think tank, set up in 2010 to tackle what its members see as left-wing dominance in public debate and politics in Ireland.