Tánaiste rejects calls to postpone referendum


TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has insisted that the referendum on the fiscal treaty will go ahead on May 31st, rejecting Opposition calls to abandon the treaty since Germany is delaying its ratification.

During heated exchanges in the Dáil, Mr Gilmore said stability was needed in the European economy and the euro to promote the growth agenda. “For that reason we need to vote Yes on May 31st,” he said.

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett attacked the Government’s decision to support the treaty as “bizarre” and claimed that it appeared “to be taking the best boy in the class routine a bit too far”.

The Dún Laoghaire TD, a constituency colleague of the Tánaiste, said “yesterday the revolt against the austerity agenda and the treaty spread to Germany. The architect of the treaty and the guru of austerity, Chancellor Angela Merkel, cannot even get the treaty through her own parliament”.

He told Mr Gilmore that “your comrades in the SPD [German socialists] explained their refusal to ratify the fiscal treaty as a refusal to support a cutback orgy”.

He asked the Tánaiste how he could support the cutbacks that would be required in a traumatised Irish economy if the German socialists could make such a claim “in the context of a relatively healthy German economy”.

He also claimed that even if Ireland voted No to the treaty, the State would still have to contribute to the European stability Mechanism that it would have no access to.

But Mr Gilmore hit back at Mr Boyd Barrett’s claims for an alternative treaty, an additional €10 billion in taxes. “You would double the amount in income tax and on top of that you want to collapse the euro,” he said. He added: “It is clear that what is happening in Greece is a cause for arousal in Deputy Boyd Barrett” but the route “sensible people” wanted to go was to attract jobs and investments and “work our way out of the economic difficulty we have found ourselves in”. He said “there must be confidence in Ireland, the euro and our relationship with the euro. That is why we need to pass this treaty.”

If they wanted to avoid an orgy of cuts “we need to have access to emergency funding if we require it”.

Mr Boyd Barrett said they would “only levy wealth taxed on the top 5 per cent of our population and increase income taxes for those who earn more than €100,000. “We would not maintain taxes for low and middle income workers that the Government has imposed.”

He said the Tánaiste had not answered the question regarding an obligation on Ireland having to contribute €11 billion to the European Stability Mechanism, which the State would not have access to with a No vote.

Mr Gilmore said Ireland would not have to contribute €11 billion.

That figure “is the amount that may be called upon”. He said “this country’s contribution to the ESM is less than 1.6 per cent of the total fund”. The immediate issue was maintaining access to the fund, he said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said there was unease in the Labour Party about the referendum because a number of local authority members including the deputy mayor of Galway, Collette Connolly, Cllr Cian O’Callaghan in Fingal and the mayor of Longford, James Keogh, had publicly opposed the treaty.

She said it was time for the Tánaiste to join “the growing number” within Labour and its sister party in Germany, which had called the treaty a “bad deal”.

However, Mr Gilmore said every individual would cast their vote in privacy in a polling vote. He said Ms McDonald appeared to be welcoming the social unrest and political instability that had happened in Greece.