Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Gangs, drugs and radicalisation: Manchester bomber 'fits profile of other terrorists'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

OPEC looks set to extend production cut

Read more

ENCORE!

Could Sean Baker's movie be the best at the fest?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

A frosty Vatican reception?

Read more

THE DEBATE

We'll always have Cannes: World's most famous film festival turns 70 (part 2)

Read more

THE DEBATE

We'll always have Cannes: World's most famous film festival turns 70 (part 1)

Read more

ENCORE!

Cannes 2017: Sofia Coppola returns with fraught thriller 'The Beguiled'

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Meeting 'cultural activist' and soprano Dima Bawab

Read more

FOCUS

Spain's Doñana National Park is dying of thirst

Read more

FOCUS

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

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

2017-05-24 Europe

Spain's Doñana National Park is dying of thirst

The Doñana National Park in southern Spain is a UNESCO world heritage site. The park is the largest nature reserve for migratory birds in Europe. But this fragile ecosystem is...

Read more

2017-05-23 Asia-pacific

A lifeline for women facing domestic violence in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the government of Punjab province has announced it will open 36 centres to protect women who are victims of violence. It's a first in a country considered to be one...

Read more

2017-05-22 health

'Healing viruses' offer hope in fight against 'superbugs'

Antibiotic resistance is fast becoming a crucial global health problem. It occurs when bacteria evolve and transform into superbugs, which are resistant to existing antibiotics....

Read more

2017-05-19 Asia-pacific

India's ambitious plan to get its rail network back on track

Stretching over 70,000 miles, India boasts one of the largest rail networks in the world. But it's also the deadliest. Thousands of people die every year in train accidents in...

Read more

2017-05-18 Middle East

Video: Social inequality on the rise in Tehran

More than 56 million Iranians are eligible to vote in Friday's presidential election. Four candidates are vying for the top job, including incumbent Hassan Rouhani and hardliner...

Read more