Wednesday 29 February 2012

Irish Attorney-General: there must be a referendum

Ireland is set to have a referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty in June after the Irish Attorney-General advised that the treaty warranted one. The government has been hoping to avoid a referendum – the watering down of the treaty’s language on requiring constitutional debt breaks to only preferring them while also accepting normal legislation with the same content was clearly an attempt to avoid referendums by ensuring that countries could introduce the changes domestically by a package of legislation.

The referendum will probably be held in June, which will hopefully give time for a full debate, but I have to admit that the first thing I thought when I saw the June date was that it might be a godsend for the Irish government if Hollande is elected in France and he goes through with his plan to withdraw France from the treaty. Of course, the treaty does not require unanimity to come into force – it only requires 12 countries to ratify it before it starts to have effect. This will affect the dynamic of the ratification process across Europe and in the Irish referendum debate. The government might argue that Ireland could be left behind and even endanger its position in the Euro if it votes against (since it would be opting out of a Eurozone policy and this could make the economic situation in Ireland less politically certain in the eyes of busi – but if a core Eurozone country like France turns against the treaty, this will provide a more serious challenge to the treaty and encourage the movements against the treaty in Ireland and other parts of Europe.

It should be noted that 90% of this treaty was passed into European law at the end of last year by the European Parliament (the not-really-that-infamous “six pack” of legislation). Which proves that the EP really is more legislatively powerful in the EU than is generally thought, and that the media is rubbish at keeping track of important legislation in Brussels.

So one final point: the EP is debating the idea of “stability bonds” – it might be a good idea to have some debate on this outside the Brussels Bubble when we can still write to our MEPs and try to influence Parliament. That’s what it’s there for, after all...


  1. Can Enda Kenny sign up to a fiscal Reform Treaty with EU before ratifying a vote in a referendum?"
    Is this not illegal" EU and The Irish Government may be breaking the Law.
    Rita Cahill

  2. The ratification process and signature process is different, I think. The Lisbon Treaty and other treaties are signed before parliamentary ratification, and, if a change in the constitution is needed, a referendum.