Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Baltimore Burns: Government Declares Emergency After Night of Riots (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Baltimore Burns: Government Declares Emergency After Night of Riots (part 1)

Read more

ENCORE!

'Mad Men' creator Matthew Weiner on cigarettes, the 60s and Don Draper’s charm

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Experimental Ebola vaccine gives hope to Guinea

Read more

FASHION

Craftsmen passionate about their trade

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Burundi: Protests continue against President Nkurunziza

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Greece reins in Varoufakis in bailout team 'reshuffle'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Did Jean-Marie Le Pen have a secret bank account in Switzerland?

Read more

ACCESS ASIA

India's 'twin town' phenomenon

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

2015-04-28 Ebola

Video: Experimental Ebola vaccine gives hope to Guinea

The Ebola outbreak has killed close to 11,000 people in West Africa. Although the infection rate has fallen sharply, the disease is still active, particularly in Guinea, where...

Read more

2015-04-27 cyber crime

France steps up cyber defence in wake of attacks

Since the Paris terror attacks in January, thousands of French websites have fallen victim to cyber attacks. Just two weeks ago, hackers claiming to be from the Islamic State...

Read more

2015-04-24 Armenia

Video: Meeting Marseille's Armenian community

Exactly a century ago, the Ottoman Empire instituted measures that would lead to the deaths of one and a half million ethnic Armenians. Fleeing what later came to be recognised...

Read more

2015-04-23 Lebanon

Lebanon, a second home for Armenians

Fleeing the 1915 genocide perpetrated by Ottoman troops, large numbers of Armenians sought refuge in Lebanon. The country's multi-faith society meant that they were able to...

Read more

2015-04-22 abortion

Morocco: Government considers relaxing abortion ban

In Morocco, the government is considering relaxing a ban on abortions in order to allow women to legally terminate pregnancies under certain circumstances. King Mohammed VI has...

Read more