‘Carry on regardless’ despite Treaty confusion - Kenny
The European Union’s Austerity Treaty is to be renegotiated following major political changes in France and Greece, but the Dublin government has insisted Ireland’s referendum on the treaty must go ahead later this month in any event.
A political revolt against draconian German-mandated cuts across the eurozone last weekend a saw socialist elected French President for the first time in a generation and saw a small left-wing party, Syriza, become the dominant political force in Greece.
Both election results emerged on Sunday night. Within hours, the new French president Francois Hollande confirmed he would not ratify the Treaty. By Wednesday, the German chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to cancel her parliament’s own ratification vote. That vote, scheduled for May 25, is now set to take place in late June following new negotiations.
Only the Portuguese and the (former) Greek governments have so far ratified the Treaty, while the British and Czech governments have rejected it.
But Dublin government officials have insisted the treaty referendum must still go ahead on May 31st, despite the planned changes.
“It is an Irish question for the Irish people,” insisted a spokesperson for Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
“We believe the certainty a ‘Yes’ vote can provide for potential investors is extremely important.
“It is for other jurisdictions to decide how and when they ratify.”
A new summit of EU leaders has been called for May 23rd by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. The potential outcome of the summit remains unclear -- but Ireland is due to vote just over a week later.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy and MEP Marian Harkin said the referendum must be put back.
“Irish people must be allowed to wait and see if Francois Hollande’s demand for growth-boosting measures is included in the pact before they make such a crucial decision,” Ms Murphy said.
Speaking at the European Parliament, Independent MEP Marian Harkin said that given the decision by the German government to defer ratification, “it is clear they are unable to get the required majority in the Bundestag”.
Ms Harkin said this is a clear signal that there would be amendments or changes to the current Treaty and Irish people “cannot be expected to make an informed decision in those circumstances”.
The public confusion over the status of the Treaty has not been helped by the government’s official “information” booklet. It failed to even mention the implications of the EU treaty’s new enforcement and punishment mechanisms for ensuring budget cutbacks.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams challenged Mr Kenny to a televised referendum debate to put the issues before the people in a comprehensible fashion.
Broadcaster TV3 asked both Mr Adams and Mr Kenny to take part in a head-to-head debate, as the leaders of the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns, two days before the country goes to the polls on May 31.
But Mr Kenny refused the challenge, saying only “I do not do the Vincent Browne programme”. The TV3 channel has since offered to use alternative moderator, but Mr Kenny has not yet changed his stance.
Sinn Féin accused the Taoiseach of “running scared” from a debate. The party’s Finance spokesman Pearse Doherty told a news conference: “If he really believes in the austerity measures that are contained within this treaty, then he has a duty and a responsibility as Taoiseach of this State to debate that with the leader of the ‘No’ campaign, Gerry Adams.”
He said the people were demanding the Taoiseach to debate the referendum “in a proper, sensible and logical way”. Fine Gael officials said today that Mr Kenny is still considering the offer.
Meanwhile, canvassing has been getting underway across the 26 Counties. Last night several hundred citizens packed into the Landmark Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon to hear Mr Adams discuss the treaty and other issues.
The Sinn Féin leader accused the establishment parties -- Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail -- of running a negative referendum campaign which was about confusing and “scaring” citizens.
“At the same time the ‘Yes’ camp is planning to hand Irish fiscal sovereignty over to European bureaucrats while imposing a further 6 billion euro in austerity cuts and taxes beyond the current Troika bailout cuts of 8.6 billion euro,” he said.
“Travelling through Leitrim and Roscommon today I met embattled community activists struggling to maintain local services for our elderly, young and disabled whose budgets have been repeatedly cut.
“The policies of austerity are stripping local communities of essential services - of schools, of guidance counsellors, hospitals, post-offices and garda stations. Small villages and towns see businesses closing and their young people emigrating.
“As one community leader told me in Mohill austerity is ‘cutting the heart out of our community’.
“And all of this will worsen if the Austerity treaty is ratified on May 31st.”
He said he had also found “great resilience” and a “spirit of hope” in Leitrim and Roscommon.
“That spirit is alive across rural Ireland,” he said.
“I met many optimistic citizens who have faith in our communities and our future. They know austerity is not working.
“Irish citizens have the chance to make a stand also against austerity on May 31st.
“The referendum provides us with an opportunity to join the growing European wide movement that is demanding an end to austerity, as well investment in jobs and growth.”
Mr Adams said a ‘No’ vote would be a clear rejection of a Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail agreement to hand over control of the state to “unelected and unaccountable” bureaucrats in the EU.
“If these parties have their way, key fiscal decisions on taxes - including corporation tax - and welfare payments affecting Irish citizens will be made in future in Brussels and Strasbourg - not the Oireachtas,” he said.
“The government claims that the Treaty is about balancing the state’s books -- but its endorsement of the Fiscal Compact means that in ten years the books will be in the hands of an EU central authority, not an Irish government!
“Enda Kenny cannot claim to want to be the Taoiseach who restores Irish economic sovereignty while at the same time pursuing a course that gives it away.”