The date for the referendum on the European Union’s permanent austerity treaty has been set as Thursday, May 31st, opening the way for a debate on a treaty which, if passed, could restrict Ireland’s economic freedom forever.
The referendum date was announced in the Dáil by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore following the weekly Cabinet meeting. Voters will be asked to amend article 29.4 of the Constitution to ratify the austerity treaty and adopt the legislation required to bring it into effect. The treaty forces the 26-County state to comply with severe budget restrictions under the threat of penalties by the European courts.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD welcomed the announcement of the referendum date but said that his party would be campaigning vigorously between now and May 31st asking people to vote ‘No’.
“Sinn Féin believes this treaty is bad for Ireland and for the EU and will institutionalise austerity into domestic constitutional law and international law in perpetuity,” said Mr Adams.
Mr Adams said he appreciated that the referendum decision must have been a difficult one for the coalition government to take “given the lengths to which it went to try and avoid a referendum.
“But at least now the people will have their say.”
Mr Adams said it would cost taxpayers “at least an additional 6 billion euro in public spending cuts and tax increases after 2015. It will mean more cuts to our schools, our hospitals and our community services.
“It will also mean more charges and tax hikes. There will also be significant new powers given to the European Commission and European Court of Justice.”
Mr Adams said it would also undermine the Dublin parliament and give significant control over economic and fiscal policy to “unelected bureaucrats and judges” in Brussels and Luxembourg.
“And that is why the European Trade Union Confederation is opposed to the Treaty. It’s why the French Socialists, the German Social Democrats and the Dutch Labour Party – all sister parties of the Irish Labour party, are opposed to this treaty.
“Austerity policies will not end the economic crisis. So, Sinn Féin will be vigorously campaigning between now and May 31st and asking the citizens of this state to vote no.”
‘YES FOR EURO, YES FOR JOBS’
The Tanaiste claimed the treaty was about supporting the eurozone currency.
“Everybody in this country understands the importance of the euro. That is what the treaty is about and we are not going to get it mixed up with anything else,” Gilmore declared.
He added that recent job creation had come about thanks to political and economic stability.
“It’s about managing our debt in such a way that over time, taxpayers’ money goes not into servicing debts but more and more into public services and targeted growth initiatives to create jobs.”
‘YES FOR BANKERS, YES FOR BONDHOLDERS’
But a Socialist member of the European Parliament, Paul Murphy said the EU fiscal stability treaty was “made for the bankers”.
Mr Murphy referred to a claim this week by the powerful Institute of International Finance in Washington, which warned that a ‘No’ vote would damage the country’s reputation for repaying debts.
“The bankers are telling us that they’re scared of a ‘No’ vote. Of course they’re scared of a ‘No’ vote. This is a treaty made for the bankers,” he said.
Murphy’s Socialist Party has said it is opposing the “dictatorship of the financial markets” and that it was “scandalous” that elected governments “fall down on their face in worship” in front of international bond speculators.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the ULA would also be campaigning vigorously for a ‘No’ vote in villages, towns and cities around the country ahead of polling day.
“The only weapon the Government has in this campaign is fear and that’s the one they intend to deploy,” he said. He accused the German and French governments, and the ECB, of demanding that the big banks of Europe be protected.
An opinion poll published on Sunday has shown that the referendum is likely to pass, although almost one in five voters has yet to make up their mind. However, protests against EU-mandated austerity programs have increased in Ireland as well as across Europe this week, particularly in Spain, where giant rallies and have been taking place. In Britain, there was a major upset early this [Friday] morning when left-wing radical George Galloway was re-elected to the House of Commons. A huge and unexpected swing to Galloway’s tiny Respect party in the Bradford West by-election was being seen as a dramatic protest against the Tory-imposed austerity program there.
There have also been significant protests in Greece, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Italy, where two men committed suicide by self-immolation in protest at financial pressures.
Socialist TD Joe Higgins warned there would be “the usual attempt” by the 26-County government and media to portray those on the left of the political spectrum as anti-European.
“We will show that we are the real Europeans in the sense of standing up for the ordinary working people of Greece, Portugal and Spain. We are standing with our fellow European working people,” Mr Higgins said.