Preparing for European fiscal vote
Sir, – The debate on the forthcoming referendum on the fiscal treaty has to date been notable for the efforts of some opponents of the proposal to misinterpret provisions of the treaty. In particular, there appears to be a concerted effort to overemphasise the significance of the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union under Article 8.
For the purposes of clarity it is important to note that Ireland, or any of the other member states, will only find itself before the court if it fails to incorporate the “debt brake” into national law at either constitutional or legislative level.
The Government has already indicated that it will do so by means of a fiscal responsibility Bill that will be enacted subsequent to ratification of the treaty. The role of the court, if asked, is to adjudicate on whether the debt brake has been given legal effect. There is no question of the court imposing a fine on a member state unless a second action is taken subsequent to an initial failure of a member state to incorporate the “debt brake”.
The provision is not novel. Rather, it is already part of EU law where there is a failure by a member state to give effect to an existing judgment of the court. It is a provision that has greatly benefited Irish citizens to date by ensuring that the State gives effect to existing EU laws relating to everything from proper waste water treatment to the protection of natural habitats.
Across the entire spectrum of EU law, the court has to date only ever imposed a fine on 10 occasions against member states. The mere presence of the remedy is usually sufficient to encourage compliance with an existing judgment of the court.
Such rules of enforcement not only protect Irish citizens against the excesses of its governments but, in the context of the fiscal treaty, will also protect Irish interests should any other member state fail to give effect in its laws to the debt brake. Rather than considering Article 8 as a threat, it should be read as a reassurance that we as citizens will never again have to pick up the bill for economic mismanagement either here or elsewhere within the European Union. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The beatings will continue until growth improves! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The old adage that an “unexamined life is not worth living” seems to have morphed into a new saying – the unexamined treaty is worth voting for. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Éamon de Valera looked into his heart and saw what the Irish people wanted. Éamon Ó Cuív looked into heart and saw what Micheál Martin wanted. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In response to Anthony Leavy (May 10th), I would like to remind him and others of similar opinion that “the lack of responsibility that has the country bankrupt” was not a feature of the public finances, but rather of private bank management. This is a well-known fact. One can look up any body of statistics, for example those of the ECB, and they will tell you that Irish government finances were pretty much in surplus from the end of 1996 to the end of 2007. However, by the end of 2008, the State finances carried a deficit of 7.3 per cent, according to the ECB. What does this tell us? It tells us that something occurred in 2008 that led to either a massive reduction in government revenue or else a massive increase in government expenditure.
Reviewing the literature and news items surrounding the year 2008, one particular month stands out, September 2008. This was the month of the outbreak of the global financial crisis and of the “unilateral Irish bank guarantee”, when the Irish government acted effectively as an insurance broker for Irish private banks.
Of course, if Mr Leavy meant that the Irish government at that time was irresponsible for insuring the losses of equally irresponsible banks, then that is a different argument. On that argument two things must be kept in mind: that although we have a new Government, its continuation of the previous government’s bank policy could be characterised as being equally “irresponsible”, and that the banks, since 2008, have had a “free lunch”.
Consequently the argument in favour of the fiscal treaty that points towards a “lack of fiscal responsibility” is either self-defeating for the Yes side or plainly wrong. – Yours, etc,