Fine Gael leader and 26-County Taoiseach Enda Kenny provoked the wrath of a large swathe of Irish public opinion this morning when he signed the EU’s Fiscal Compact Treaty, without waiting for a referendum of the people of the State.
After months of denial, Kenny this week accepted the constitutional requirement to hold a referendum on the Treaty. In a bid to shore up the Euro currency, the Treaty, a ‘fiscal compact’, imposes permanent and binding budget rules on all signatory states
Although his signature is not legally binding without ratification by referendum, his decision to publicly sign the document, just as the Treaty debate was getting underway, was seen as an insult.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams today made a public appeal for the Irish electorate to vote against the EU treaty.
Speaking in Castlebar, he said the policies of austerity were closing down businesses, and stripping local communities of essential services such as schools, guidance counsellors, hospitals, post-offices and Garda stations.
“The Taoiseach is signing that treaty this morning. He wants to hand significant new powers over to the European Court of Justice and the European Commission.
“Mr Kenny is allowing these institutions to impose economic policies on democratically elected governments and to impose heavy fines where they believe these policies have not been adhered to.”
He pointed to plans by the coalition government to cut a further 8.6bn euro from the economy in the next three years to meet the Troika deficit target of 3%.
“Enda Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore’s austerity treaty demands that this deficit be reduced to a 0.5% target. This means that up to a further 6bn euro in cuts and new taxes will be imposed!”
He said “thankfully” the Irish people would have their say.
“The Irish people cannot afford this Treaty. Sinn Féin will campaign for a ‘No’ vote. That is the democratic option.”
The continuing erosion of Irish sovereignty this week saw a committee of the German parliament consider sensitive documents about the 26-County economy before their contents were made available to members of the Dublin government itself.
The document outlined the prospects for a second (mini) budget of new cuts, charges and taxes, and was circulated to members of the Bundestag in Berlin. The report also revealed plan to sell insurer Irish Life, and set out a more ambitious plan for State asset disposals.
This is the second time sensitive information about the Irish economy has been released this way. It follows the disclosure in Germany last November of budget details, including tax changes, in advance of their announcement by the coalition government.
The disclosure of the latest document adds weight to claims that EU and ‘Troika’ officials are increasingly bypassing Irish cabinet ministers in designing and implementing austerity program policies.
Rumours also circulated this week that former EU Commissioner and Goldman Sachs chair Peter Sutherland had been informally approached about leading a technocrat government in Dublin, similar to those already installed in Rome and Athens.
The incident caused unusual disquiet within the Labour Party, with leader and Tanaist Eamon Gilmore telling the Dáil he was “unhappy” at the way in which the document was handled.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the last time the Bundestag discussed the Irish economy, the Tanaiste told the Dáil he would pursue the matter vigorously. “If there was ever an example of your ineffectiveness and your failure it surely resides in the fact that we now have episode two of exactly the same scenario,” she said.
Independent TD Shane Ross said the point about the “embarrassing leaks” was that economic policy and the “policy of austerity was dictated and decided and revealed elsewhere”. Mr Ross called on the government to turn the referendum on the revised fiscal compact treaty into a “positive” by demanding a “credit write-off” for the 26-County state.
Mr Gilmore ruled this out, telling the Dáil the government was “not going to trade the constitutional rights of the Irish people with anybody or for anything”. However, this contrasted sharply with the Minister for Social Protection, who said that the European Union should ease the burden on Ireland’s bank repayment as a measure of “solidarity”.
Speaking from Brussels as he was preparing to sign the Treaty, the Taoiseach said that the Irish people “are not going to be bribed by anybody”.
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan added that Irish people are “great respecters” of the Constitution and are “not going to be subject to either coercion or inducement.”
‘AN INDEFEASIBLE RIGHT’
In a statement, the president of Republican Sinn Féin, Des Dalton said the system of finance capitalism driven by France and Germany had created the economic collapse of the past four years “yet it is the working people of Ireland and Europe who are being asked to pay the price.
“As we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising, we have now an opportunity to fight back and show that the 1916 Proclamation still speaks for this generation when it declares: ‘The right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.’”