Kenny says ratifying treaty in Ireland's interest


IT IS unequivocally in the interests of all the people of Ireland that the European fiscal treaty is ratified, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in Belfast last night.

Mr Kenny, who delivered the annual chancellor’s lecture before a VIP audience at the Belfast campus of the University of Ulster, said it was vital that the Irish people informed themselves on what the fiscal treaty was about.

The treaty is being put to referendum on May 31st.

“What it is not about is Germany taking over Europe,” he said.

Speaking to reporters earlier and in his speech, Mr Kenny said ratifying the treaty was also important for people in the North.

“It might be easy for people in Northern Ireland to be indifferent or ambivalent on this issue or for people in the South to mistakenly adopt a politically populist campaign against it,” he said.

“But that would be a mistake. I believe that it is unequivocally in all of our interests – North and South – for Ireland to ratify the fiscal stability treaty, for Ireland to continue to be a member of the euro, and for the euro to survive and succeed as a strong currency.”

He added that rejection of the treaty “would harm Ireland as Europe would continue without us”.

A total of €4.2 million has been allocated for “a comprehensive information campaign” about the treaty. Earlier, Mr Kenny told a Dáil subcommittee this sum was part of the Department of the Taoiseach estimate and included €2.2 million for the Referendum Commission, which was “entirely independent in how it conducts its campaign”.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming said that, on previous occasions, the budget for the Referendum Commission was “about 80 per cent” of the allocation but this time it was just more than half the total.

“That is a fundamental change,” he said, and asked if it resulted from “some displeasure” with the commission previously. The Taoiseach said there was “absolutely no difficulty” about the allocation to the commission, chaired this time by Mr Justice Kevin Feeney.

He said the amount set aside for the commission in last October’s referendums on judges’ pay and Oireachtas inquiries was €2.25 million and the current budget of €2.2 million was “more than adequate”.

Earlier at Government Buildings, together with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, the Taoiseach launched a dedicated website to the referendum:

Mr Gilmore pointed out that yesterday’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll showed 39 per cent of those surveyed were still undecided about the treaty.

“We intend as a Government to provide the maximum amount of information to people,” he said.

Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy welcomed the increase in the level of undecided voters from 25 per cent to 39 per cent which, he said, “shows an increased questioning of the political establishment’s view on this treaty”.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle, from Donegal South West, has initiated a High Court challenge against the Government over aspects of two EU treaties.

Meanwhile, the largest trade union, Siptu, has said it will only recommend the fiscal compact treaty if the Government agrees to a new economic stimulus plan including the provision of incentives to private pension funds to invest in the domestic economy.

The union said such an off-balance sheet stimulus could create tens of thousands of jobs.

In a statement following a meeting of its national executive council yesterday, the union described the strategy underpinning the treaty as “a one-sided austerity approach, principally at the expense of working people, which will not work”.

Siptu president Jack O’Connor said: “Ireland is between a rock and a hard place. The treaty imposes, what we believe, to be an unnecessarily severe ‘debt brake’.”