AG has no deadline for treaty work, says Kenny


THE ATTORNEY General has no formal deadline to advise the Government if a referendum is required for Europe’s new fiscal treaty, the Taoiseach has said.

Enda Kenny said Máire Whelan “must be given the time she needs to undertake this detailed and important work’’.

Mr Kenny repeated that the Government would not shirk from its duties. “I will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that Ireland is in a position to ratify the treaty, including a referendum if necessary.”

He welcomed the treaty where “shared currency rules, and the ability to enforce them, are of vital importance’’.

The arrangements, he added, made it possible to hold all member states, including the biggest ones, to account in a way that had not previously been possible.

“But I would equally acknowledge that it cannot be seen in any way as a sufficient response to the crisis currently facing Europe. To get beyond our current difficulties we also need an urgent focus on growth-enhancing policies.’’

Introducing a series of statements on Monday’s EU Council meeting, Mr Kenny said economic recovery would not be built in a day or at a single meeting.

“But on Monday we took important steps in the right direction, and I will be making sure that my colleagues deliver on what they have agreed, and ensure that our undertakings are turned into concrete actions in the period ahead.’’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin warned there was a great danger that the approach to date, and the pushing through of the treaty without any public engagement, would do lasting damage to the union’s standing in Ireland.

“For the sake of rushing through this treaty we could damage the possibility of ever again winning support for an EU initiative. Given that this treaty commits us to a new major EU treaty in the next few years, this is an urgent concern.’’

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (SF) said the Government’s major focus in the negotiation strategy was to avoid the necessity to hold a referendum. “If the Taoiseach has nothing to fear from this process, and is so confident about the austerity treaty, why does he not stop hiding behind the Attorney General and put the text to the people?’’

Mick Wallace (Ind) said there was little doubt that the level of austerity the treaty brought to the rest of Europe suited Germany more than the other 26 member states. “The Germans are in control, and very few in Europe seem to have the stomach to contradict our masters today.’’

Shane Ross (Ind) said it was an agreement dictated by one nation to everybody else. “This is a German prescription for Europe.’’

Clare Daly (Socialist Party) said the treaty was a proposition to enforce institutionalised austerity, which people throughout Europe had been organising against. “Is it any wonder that, in order to bring in these policies, we have seen a shift from democratic rights and entitlements throughout Europe?”

Seamus Healy (Ind) said the Government, like its predecessor, was determined to place the entire burden of debt and fiscal adjustment on those on low and middle incomes.