Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Nigerian lawmakers seek to reduce president's powers

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Trump's transgender backlash

Read more

THE DEBATE

The Battle for Venezuela: Pressure mounting on Maduro ahead of sunday's vote

Read more

ENCORE!

Actress Helen Mirren on TV honours and tackling sexism

Read more

FOCUS

Teething problems for French President Macron's party

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Libya's Haftar vows to deal with terrorists 'through weapons'

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

USA: Fierce battle over Kentucky's only abortion clinic

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Socks and selfies deep': Canadians slam Rolling Stone's Trudeau tribute

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Panda-monium! French zoo awaiting rare panda birth

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

2017-07-27 French politics

Teething problems for French President Macron's party

President Emmanuel Macron's "La République En Marche" party is having its first teething problems, as it transitions from a grassroots movement to France's most powerful...

Read more

2017-07-26 Americas

The limits of affirmative action in Brazil

Brazil has the highest proportion of so-called "mixed race" people in the world. Yet only 13% of people aged 18 to 24 in that category are enrolled at university. Back in 2012,...

Read more

2017-07-25 Africa

Kenyan authorities step up security amid Al-Shabaab threat

The last few weeks have seen a rise in attacks by Al-Shabaab Islamists along the Kenya-Somalia border. One area particularly affected is the county of Lamu, where 18 people have...

Read more

2017-07-24 Africa

How Senegal is leading the fight against AIDS in West Africa

Amid the ongoing international AIDS conference in Paris, we take a closer look at efforts being made to fight the disease. In its report published last week, UNAIDS revealed that...

Read more

2017-07-21 Middle East

Iraq's Mosul: Rebuilding a city fractured by sectarian mistrust

The battle for Iraq's second city of Mosul is officially over and the Islamic State group is defeated, according to the army. But the city is still seeing sporadic suicide...

Read more