Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

France priest terror attack: Is Europe helpless?

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Another drop in iPhone sales, so why are Apple shares rising?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Horror in the church: Priest 'assassinated by barbarians'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Online reactions to French church attack

Read more

THE DEBATE

France church attack: Priest killed in Normandy, assailants dead

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Inside a migrant hotspot in southern Italy

Read more

ENCORE!

'Oh my Gad!' French comedian Gad Elmaleh on his American dream

Read more

THE DEBATE

Democratic Convention: Can the Democrats now unite around Hillary Clinton?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Lady Liberty': The story behind the pictures

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2012-06-05

Ireland votes on eurozone treaty

Close to three million Irish people are eligible to vote on the EU Fiscal Treaty on Thursday 31 May. This referendum – the only one in Europe – is key to the future of a treaty designed to strengthen the euro by forcing governments to keep a strict balance between their income and spending.

The last opinion polls suggest roughly a 60% lead for the “yes” camp. This would be a commanding lead, even a done deal, if almost one voter out of four were not undecided, just a few days before the vote. Three opinions polls published on Sunday put the “Don’t Knows” between 16% and 27%. This indicates confusion over the main issues. According to one poll, one voter out of three does not understand the Fiscal Treaty, despite the energetic “yes” campaign led by the Irish government in recent weeks.

'If you don’t know, vote no'

The gap between the “yes” and the “no” is closing fast. And it is a source of concern for the Fine Gael (centre-right) and Labour coalition in power, which has put all its weight behind this referendum.

The turnout will be key to the outcome of the referendum. If below 50%, the “yes” side may be in trouble, as traditionally the “no” camp -- led in the opposition by Sinn Féin and the hard left -- is better at getting its supporters out to the polling stations. There is a saying about referendums in Ireland: “If you don’t know, vote no”. Ireland said “no” to the Lisbon Treaty, and to the Nice Treaty before that, on the first referendum held in both these cases. Irish voters later changed their minds on both these EU treaties, in a second referendum.

Will Ireland vote twice on the Fiscal Treaty?

The Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has ruled this out. But there is a view, shared by the right-wing think tank Libertas among others, that Ireland should vote “no”, and wait for another referendum when a growth and stimulus package is agreed by the EU member states.

There is a key difference between the Fiscal Treaty and past European treaties. In this case, it only takes twelve EU member states to ratify the Treaty before it is set in motion. Irish voters no longer have a veto. Eurozone countries can therefore go ahead without Ireland.

Fear versus weariness with austerity

Fear is the main weapon in the “yes” camp’s arsenal. In their opinion, the consequences of a “no” vote could be disastrous for Ireland and for Europe. “It would have the effect of putting into question the stability of our currency and the eurozone as a whole,” Ireland’s Europe Minister Lucinda Creighton said to France 24, “so I can’t really see any benefits of a “no” vote. I can see lots of consequences”. The Irish Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore (Labour) told France 24: “I think the people of Ireland understand that this Treaty is necessary in order to help stabilise the euro; that it is necessary to ensure that there is investor confidence in Ireland to create jobs”.

For the Irish government and “yes” campaign, the main opponent in this referendum is the public’s weariness with austerity, after three years of recession. A regime of drastic reductions in public spending and higher taxes has been dictated by Europe and the IMF since the 2010 bailout.

“Austerity has failed here, failed miserably and it has no prospect of success,” argues Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald. “We need to trade and grow our way out of this. The Irish people are up for that, but they need the political expression to give leadership to that”.

£Twenty-five of the 27 EU governments have pledged to ratify this budgetary pact. Among the new rules, states will have to reduce their debt to a maximum of 60% of their total income or GDP (Gross National Product).

By Hervé AMORIC

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2016-07-26 immigration

Video: Inside a migrant hotspot in southern Italy

Several small towns in Italy have been identified by the authorities as so-called migrant hotspots, where the identities of migrants are recorded into the European database....

Read more

2016-07-25 Canada

Canada: Religious sponsorship of refugees creates controversy

Within just a few months, Canada has taken in 25,000 Syrian refugees. A private sponsorship system means that around 10,000 of them are sponsored by individuals and refugee...

Read more

2016-07-22 Pakistan

Women doctors in Pakistan challenge the status quo

While the majority of medical students in Pakistan are women, the workforce is largely made up of men, leading to an overall shortage of doctors in the country. The reason is...

Read more

2016-07-21 World War I

Bomb disposal experts comb World War I battlefields, one century on

In recent months, ceremonies have been held to mark the centenary of major World War One battles at Verdun and the Somme in northern France. Hundreds of thousands of men were...

Read more

2016-07-20 Mozambique

Mozambique's reputation tarnished by hidden debt scandal

A massive hidden debt scandal has tarnished Mozambique’s reputation with the international business community. In April, the southeastern African nation acknowledged that it had...

Read more