Deputy Doherty argues that you should Vote ‘No’ if that’s what your gut tells you (Irish Times Opinion, 29th May 2012). If there’s anything this Treaty requires of each citizen, it is careful discernment – judgment based on examination of the facts, the varied interpretations of the facts being offered by all sides of the debate, your own ideological starting point and experience. That’s not to say that intuition/instinct doesn’t come into play – but on something as important as this Treaty – instincts are simply not enough.
I have already set out my rationale for voting ‘Yes.’ One of the reasons I did so (rather than keep my head down below the parapet) was because I think that it is possible to argue to vote ‘yes’ from the left-of-centre. If that’s not the case, I’d be suspicious of an ideology of ‘no dissenters’ in the left and surely that is contradictory.
Europe/we are in a crisis. One of the reasons, though not the only reason, for this crisis is the mis-management of national debts in many member states, Ireland included. Rules to ensure proper management of national budgets does not necessarily mean permanent austerity. I have seen no evidence of this in the arguments.
Furthermore, and this is where Deputy Doherty is wrong – Ireland will NOT be required to cut 6billion euros from its budget in 2015 – because included in the Treaty (Art 4) is a reference to Council Regulation No 1177/2011 of 8 November 2011 – which states that the budget rules of the Treaty do not kick in for a member state in a bail-out programme until three years AFTER the bail-out programme finishes. Ireland’s bail-out ends in 2015 – so we don’t have to meet the deficit rules of Treaty until at least 2018.
This is one element, among many, contained within the Treaty that provides member states with some flexibility, over a long period of time, to reasonably reach the target of a balanced budget.
And then there is the issue of the ESM. I have already expressed the reasonable view that we will require a second bail-out, as we will most likely have 200billion euros of sovereign debt by 2015 (probably Deputy Doherty would agree with this). However, I think he is wrong when he says ‘the rules of the ESM are clear’ that Ireland can access ESM even if it does not sign the Treaty. To say that the ESM would provide funding to Ireland, based on Articles 3 and 12 (as Deputy Doherty argues), represents a selective reading of the Treaty – it ignores what it says in the ‘Recitals’ section of the Treaty. In ‘Recitals 5’ the ESM Treaty states that the ESM and the Fiscal Treaty are complementary in fostering fiscal responsibility and solidarity within the economic and monetary union – and that financial assistance from ESM for member states is conditional on their ratification of the Treaty.
That’s what it says – so I strenuously disagree with Deputy Doherty’s selective reading of the Treaty.
I have previously argued that Ireland absolutely needs to cut its bank debt – starting with the Anglo Bonds. (See my statement from November 2011 here) Bank debt of course is part of the crisis. Ireland can find at least 2billion a year, if Promissory notes are written down or even if they are re-negotiated over a 30 – 40 year period.
Then, we would be moving towards balanced budget, WITH 2billion more for critical public services that in my view, are the most creative way to re-distribute wealth. However, and this is what I argued previously, if Ireland does pass the Treaty, what we desperately need is a fresh vision of social equality for Ireland. This is where our focus needs to turn now. The fiscal compact must be complemented by a new social compact (concept first put out by Professor Sean O’Riain, Maynooth sociologist). And I am committed to progress such a social compact, so that the promise of yes is realized.