Preparing for European treaty vote

 

Sir, – There has been little or no mention of what we are being asked to vote on, viz an amendment to the Irish Constitution.

The referendum is asking us to support or oppose the addition of the following subsection to Article 29.4 of the Constitution: “The State may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union done at Brussels on the 2nd day of March 2012. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that Treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that Treaty from having the force of law in the State.”

To my layman’s understanding, this clause is stating that the Irish Constitution is to be set aside when it comes to government activities conducted under the auspices of the fiscal treaty and is therefore effectively asking the Irish citizenry to suspend its own Constitution and the rule of law for any and all activities issuing from ratification of the treaty.

Besides looking like eerily like another (more famous) “Enabling Act” also passed in conditions of crisis, this proposal appears also to deprive the Irish citizenry of any and all constitutional protections should they conflict with laws, acts and measures implemented by the government as a result of the treaty.

Moreover, it appears to remove these protections also from laws, acts and measures of other bodies granted legal status by the treaty, such as the European Commission, European Central Bank, European Council, and newly endowed Euro Group. In short, it looks like we are being asked to tear up our own Constitution for the sake of an (at best) dubious treaty.

I note the Referendum Commission is silent on this, and would therefore like to hear what constitutional lawyers have to say about what looks like an attack on the Irish Constitution enacted not by “terrorists” or “subversives”, but by a raggle-taggle government that together only managed to attract some 38.5 per cent of the votes of the Irish electorate.

In particular, I would like to know why this does not constitute what in other societies is referred to as a “coup”. – Yours, etc,

SEÁN L’ESTRANGE,

School of Sociology,

University College Dublin,

Belfield, Dublin 4.

Sir, – No one could argue with Patrick Kinsella’s argument that it is good for a country to borrow so that it can invest in future growth through capital projects (Opinion, May 24th). However, he ignores the reality that Ireland is borrowing billions just to support current social spending and that the Government is committed to capital investment of nearly €4 billion a year up to 2016.

Today’s unsustainable borrowing damages future generations, by making them liable for yesterday’s mistakes. Our budget deficit will be closed over a number of years and the EU-IMF loans give us the freedom to do this, rather than in one big bang, which would fall overwhelmingly on the backs of the most poor and vulnerable.

There is nothing in the stability treaty that will affect what taxation measures a country can take or what it can spend money on. It means that if we want to increase current spending on health, or education, or social welfare we must ensure that we have a sustainable revenue base. That will still leave a country with room to borrow for long term investment in infrastructure, education and training. As someone on the left, I believe that is the responsible argument that must be made.

What is at stake in this crisis is the social progress made over the last 50 years in Ireland and Europe, but the best way to secure that is with a Yes vote that strengthens the euro, copperfastens future budget responsibility and guarantees us access to a fund of money should we need a second bailout. – Yours, etc,

CATHAL MCCANN,

Glenmore,

Riverstown, Dundalk, Co Louth.

Sir, – Regarding the question of Article 7 and Article 15 of the treaty. Article 7 is pertinent, because it provides a mandate for the European Commission to dictate the economic measures a country must apply to bring a deficit back within the limits prescribed by the treaty. This is precisely how the treaty will force Ireland to capitulate on corporation tax and on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB). It is a fundamentally undemocratic procedure. Like many of the initiatives driven by EU bureaucrats these days, it is the Trojan horse to get around the inconvenient need to secure a democratic mandate.

The Commission’s proposals can only be blocked by “reverse qualified majority” where it requires the majority to oppose the measures. Given that Germany and France both support the CCCTB and duplicitously wish to force us to change our corporation tax, it is highly unlikely that our EU partners would defend our position.

Pat “The Cope” Gallagher joins the queue of politicians to declare with certainty that neither corporation tax nor the CCCTB form part of the treaty. This is true, in the realm of mental reservation – and we all know what kind of truth is to be found there. I would sincerely appreciate it if these politicians of certainty could explain how the Commission would be constrained from pursuing its own agenda through its powers under Article 7.

Article 15 sets out how a country can accede to this treaty. It turns out that this procedure is simple, and can be done at any stage by any member state within the euro zone that wishes to accede. This surely means that there is no pressure on Ireland to accede now. This is all the more so when we see the debate on a “growth” agenda. – Yours, etc,

CORMAC MACGOWAN,

Crinnage,

Craughwell,

Galway.

Sir, – Nobody now believes that the fiscal stability treaty is the complete answer to all our economic and fiscal problems – and in-growing toenails “to boot”! Or even that this treaty will, in its present form, definitely be part of the ultimate deal.

There has to be a bigger and much more radical package. Which will certainly take months, maybe even years, to hammer out. (If indeed we have that amount of time.) This time, (unlike the post-Maastricht situation), there simply have to be cast-iron guarantees and real sanctions to ensure that everybody, including the big boys, plays by the agreed rules. Like it or not, that includes us.

Whatever about our Government’s sense of timing, (or even the small print of the treaty), the referendum is, in the short term, an essential political “test” – and part of the qualifying process for the next round. If we vote Yes it may eventually be almost irrelevant. But if we vote No, it will definitely put us in “a separate room” so far as the necessary substantive negotiations are concerned. “They, (the Irish), like the Greeks, voted democratically against playing by the agreed rules, didn’t they?” Such an evaluation – with its practical consequences in “real life” – is the brutal reality.

We have to vote Yes on Thursday. – Yours, etc,

MAURICE O’CONNELL,

Fenit Without,

Fenit,

Tralee,

Co Kerry.

Sir, – For an ordinary citizen trying to evaluate both sides of the European treaty vote the fundamental challenge arises . . . ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. – Yours, etc,

CHRISTIAN MORRIS,

Claremont Road,

Howth,

Dublin 13.