LESS than four years ago over 30,000 Mayo people (62%) voted against the first Lisbon Treaty, reflecting a definite pattern of European project disenchantment in the remoter constituencies of rural Ireland. However, one year later, and after a lot of scaremongering about jobs, the second Lisbon Treaty was passed in October 2009 by an overwhelming national majority. Significantly, a certain urban-rural dichotomy was still evident.
Fast-forward to March 2012 and it is a Mayo Taoiseach that is sounding the first salvo in a referendum campaign to pass yet another pact that entangles us to the purse-strings of Europe, the European Fiscal Treaty. However, he confirmed yesterday (Monday) that there would be no round-two for this treaty.
Shortly after signing the pact last Friday, Enda Kenny warned that support for the European Fiscal Treaty was crucial for Ireland’s place in the EU and the single currency.
Fundamentally, this treaty requires member states to keep their budget deficits and public debts within tight limits. Ireland must have a structural deficit of no more than 0.5% of national output, or be in a position to show rapid convergence towards that aim.
Speaking after he signed the treaty, alongside 24 other European leaders, Enda Kenny said he expected the Irish people to strongly endorse the agreement ‘because they recognise that it is about the future, it is about jobs, it is about a growth agenda and therefore it is about our people as being part of the European Union’.
If Enda Kenny’s popularity at the ballot box in Mayo still resonates, he will not have to worry about the treaty being passed, probably during May, on his home-patch. The fact that Mayo’s four other government deputies (three Fine Gael and one Fianna Fáil) are also supporting the treaty further consolidates this.
Sinn Féin’s opposition to the pact will be a litmus test of its improving position in national polls and an indication of its possible fate in the next local elections. However, the expressed position of dissident Fianna Fáiler, Éamon O Cuív on the treaty may influence a lot of rural voters. He is increasingly viewed as the champion of such causes as the septic tank charge.
This has also been echoed now by Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton who said a renegotiation of Ireland’s debt burden would boost support for the Yes vote in the referendum.
However, Junior Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton said yesterday that government was treating negotiations for better terms on bank debt as ‘entirely separate’ from the fiscal treaty referendum.
“It’s very important that we do see progress on the issue of our promissory notes and, as you know, Michael Noonan is leading that negotiation on behalf of the Government. That is a work in progress. It is entirely separate to the ratification of this treaty.” Ms Creighton said.
She continued: “This treaty will be good for Ireland, it will be good for Europe, it is essential in my view that we ratify it. The issue of promissory notes is a very important one, it’s one that’s ongoing but it’s a separate issue.”
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