Noonan comments criticised


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has today warned he will have to introduce a tougher budget that will include tax increases if the public rejects the Fiscal Treaty Referendum.

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting this morning, Mr Noonan rejected suggestions that the country would still be able to access funding if a No vote is returned by the electorate.

"It's very clear on this treaty that only those countries that ratify it will have access to European Stability Mechanism (ESM) funding and there are no other funds," he said.

"If there's a No vote the Budget I'll be planning for later in the year will be dramatically more difficult than if there's a Yes vote.

"If people think that by voting No they'll avoid further tax cuts and increases, actually a No vote will do the opposite," he added.

Fianna Fáil described Mr Noonan's comments as "unhelpful" and said they would only serve to alienate potential Yes voters.

"The minister and his Government colleagues would be far better employed selling the merits of the Treaty to people rather than playing on their fears," said the party's finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary McDonald accused Mr Noonan of issuing "outrageous" threats to the public in order to secure a Yes vote.

“People should not be bullied by the Government. They should assess the austerity treaty on its content and implications for Ireland and on May 31st vote accordingly, she said.

“The Government said it wants an open and honest debate. It is high time that they started to practice what they preach," she added.

The Socialist Party described Mr Noonan's comments as an attempt to put a gun to the heads of the public and force them to vote Yes.

Speaking at the launch of the party's referendum poster campaign, Dublin MEP Paul Murphy said a Yes vote would lead to more austerity.

His colleague Joe Higgins accused the Government of using the "argument of fear" to scare voters and said that instead of offering more stability, the fiscal treaty would bring about more instability both here and across Europe.

The fiscal treaty, which will be put to a referendum in Ireland on May 31st, obliges member states to keep budget deficits and public debts within tight limits.

Mr Noonan's comments on the treaty this morning come after the Government yesterday dismissed suggestions that its senior Ministers are sending out “mixed messages” about the State’s funding choices in the event of a No vote in the fiscal treaty referendum.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday said rejecting the treaty, which proposes tough new budgetary discipline on each euro zone state, would plunge Ireland into unknown territory and there was no guarantee the International Monetary Fund would provide funding.

Separately, Fine Gael officially launched its referendum campaign today calling for a Yes vote.

Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised a campaign that would be "based on truth and on informing people of the positive reasons why they should support this treaty."

He said a Yes vote would be the best way to ensure that the strong flow of investment in jobs seen in recent month would continue.

"This referendum offers this country a vital and unique opportunity to send out a powerful signal around the globe that Ireland is facing the future with certainty and confidence," said Mr Kenny.

Speaking later in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said he would not interfere in the French presidential election campaign after he was urged to postpone the referendum, following the revelation that Francois Hollande would seek a renegotiation of the fiscal treaty if elected.

“It is not for me to interfere regarding the statements made Mr Hollande, president Sarkozy or anybody else,’’ he added.

Mr Kenny said he welcomed any European leader advocating economic growth, adding he supported the principle of an additional investment element to the fiscal treaty.

The Taoiseach was replying in the Dail today to Independent TD Shane Ross, who today called for the referendum to be postponed, pending the outcome of the French election.

There appeared to be a problem of timing, because of the increasing clamour for economic growth throughout Europe, said Mr Ross.

"Nowhere was this more apparent than in France, where Francois Hollande was leading the campaign for growth and had stated he would not sign the fiscal treaty “as is’’, he added.