Ireland gets to vote on EU fiscal treaty

Irish PM Enda Kenny during election, 25 Feb 11 Irish PM Enda Kenny will sign the treaty - and then try to persuade Irish voters

The Irish people will get to vote again on their relationship with Europe.

This time it is a referendum on the new pact enforcing budgetary discipline within the eurozone.

The polls suggest the Irish people want a say. History suggests the EU cannot take the support of the Irish people for granted. They voted "no" to the Lisbon Treaty, before being asked to vote again when they were encouraged to change their minds.

This time they hold less power. With the Lisbon Treaty the Irish held a veto. The new fiscal pact only requires the approval of 12 countries to come into force. The power of the individual country and voter has been weakened.

However, the Irish vote will be of great symbolic significance. It will enable a section of Europe's voters to give their verdict on what is a giant step towards fiscal union. That step involves a loss of sovereignty and the Irish will be able to debate it.

In Brussels the Irish government had tried to water down the new pact in the hope it would escape needing a national vote, but Ireland's top legal official judged that "on balance" it was significant enough to be put to the people.

The Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Enda Kenny, said "I am confident that the Irish people will do what is necessary… In the end, what this will come down to is a vote for economic stability and economic recovery."

Some in the Irish government have already warned that a "no" vote would in effect be a referendum on euro membership. It is an argument that has been used in Athens and elsewhere - that any rejection of an EU plan would be disastrous.

Time and again Greek MPs have been told that a "no" vote would lead to a "catastrophe", with Greece being forced out of the single currency.

That won't happen in Ireland. The major consequence is that it would restrict Ireland from receiving funds from the new permanent bailout fund, the ESM - the European Stability Mechanism - which comes into force later this year.

In Brussels there is often a palpable fear of consulting voters. But step by step significant powers are being given to the Commission which weaken national governments. In the future governments will have to submit their budgets to Brussels for review. EU officials will be able to demand spending cuts, with the threat of fines. Despite what the voters may want, under the new pact countries will have to deliver a balanced budget.

It is anticipated that in order to save the single currency full fiscal union and eventual political union will follow. Such changes would be huge.

Ultimately Europe's leaders need to know whether they are acting in the name of the people when they promote closer integration. That is why the Irish referendum will matter - not just in Dublin, but across Europe.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Its a gamble by the Irish PM. If he wins it's a fresh mandate. If he loses its a general election with Sinn Fein at 25% in the polls and rising.

    I wonder will the EU throw in some extra sweeteners for Ireland to help get a yes vote. More help with our banks for example. Or does the EU even really care about Ireland's fate?

    The evidence so far is that they don't particularly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    A referendum is only worth anything if all participants have to demonstrate their understanding of the issues - both sides of the argument - otherwise their vote is meaningless - you might as well toss a coin otherwise. Why should the vote of someone who has no understanding of the issues carry any weight if they are not prepared to fulfill their democratic duty of finding out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Ireland's crisis in part stems from the fact that as in the US and elsewhere its economic resources were diverted to building houses its population couldn't afford to buy, far more than it needed.The solution is to persuade people with money to buy them and live in Ireland.Who has money and can afford that?Chinese and Indians. Ireland should advertise in those countries and welcome immigrants

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Amusing story...

    "Let me in little EU wolf or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your fiscal pact (requires the approval of 12 countries to come into force) in" "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin", said the little EU wolf. But the Irish pig blew that house with their NO...huffed and puffed but he could not blow down that EU brick house."

    ...but what a useless Political fiction...

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It has much to lose from this treaty. For Germany, growth is not about spending money, but about fiscal discipline and structural reforms. For France, it’s to curb “disloyal” competition, by harmonising taxes to stop low-tax states (eg, Ireland) taking business away from high-tax ones (eg, France) or stopping Britain from imposing rules on its banks that make them seem safer than French ones

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.


    except of course that the Irish do have representation in the European parliament, their "masters" are actually trying to help them through this crisis and if they came looking for work on the mainland they would definitely not be greeted to the same levels of discrimination and abuse they did when London had a stranglehold on the island.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Just to highlight the point that many others seem to have glazed over; only 12/ 17 need to vote yes to this treaty for it to pass.There will be no hostage taking this time round.
    a no vote is more likely to be interpreted as irish willingness to leave the €, which isn't all that bad since the ECB will no longer need to keep their banks afloat and the bill would likely be transferred to the brits

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    And the outcome will be...... a second bail out for Ireland. That is once the EU get the answer they want. No matter how many times we have to vote to get it. It's some what ironic that republicans are now having to capitulate to their new masters. Strange how history has a way of repeating itself. Is this our new potato famine?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    In my opinion it is way past time for Ireland to put the interests of her people before that of her banks and vote no to this. It would help to put an end to her taxpayers paying for these maturing bank bonds.

    "On February 20th Allied Irish Bank paid out on one of its bonds the sum of just over 900 million Euros"

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Once again we see the European political elite trembling at the thought of democracy being applied to their machinations. This time, even if the Irish vote No the politicians have ensured that this will not stop their scheme. The answer to Gavin Hewitt's question as to whether the people of Europe want closer integration is a resounding No but those on the gravy train will never accept this

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The problems with the emphasis put on these referendum like Gavin is doing is that far to often the outcome depends on the popularity of local politicians and local politics. it is incredibly dishonest and completely unscientific to attempt to pass of the Irish referendum as speaking for anyone but the Irish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Ireland will vote as many times as necessary to get it right just like with Lisbon Treaty.Irish population has no say over how their country is run. That was proven by the fact criminals who were part of a conspiracy to sexually abuse their children couldn't be prosecuted, Irish law being helpless against the real powers that run Ireland. Irish should jump on the German money train while they can


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