Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Ireland may get concessions in exchange for 'yes' on EU fiscal treaty

Ireland's approval of the EU fiscal treaty passed in January is dependent on a public referendum, the attorney general said today. Ireland might demand concessions in exchange for approval. 

By Correspondent / February 28, 2012

Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny looks on during a meeting with his Italian counterpart Mario Monti at the Chigi Palace in Rome, last week. Ireland announced today it would green-light a public referendum on the fiscal union treaty the European Union agreed to at a special summit last month.

Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters


Dublin, Ireland

The Irish government today announced it would green-light a public referendum on the fiscal union treaty the European Union agreed to at a special summit last month. Should the Irish public reject the treaty – a poll last month says opinion is divided: 40 percent say they would vote yes, 36 percent no – it could find itself isolated from the rest of the eurozone.

Skip to next paragraph

The uncertainty presents Ireland with the opportunity to demand concessions from the EU on debt repayments in order to ensure that the public approves the treaty, which the EU is desperate to see passed.  

Irish Attorney General Máire Whelan today ended a vociferous debate over whether the EU treaty had to be put to a vote. Whelan decided that EU treaties constitute changes to the Irish Constitution and therefore have to be put to a public vote.

Many in Ireland's governing coalition, nervous about the possibility of a rejection, sought to avoid a referendum – with some support from the EU. Prime Minster Enda Kenny said today that passing the measure would be in Ireland's national interest and that he was "very confident" of a yes vote. 

"It gives the Irish people the opportunity to reaffirm Ireland’s commitment to membership of the Euro, which remains a fundamental pillar of our economic and jobs strategy," he said in a speech to parliament, interrupting scheduled business. 

The compact imposes stringent budget controls on eurozone members. It requires that structural deficits not exceed 0.5 percent of GDP and that debt-to-GDP ratios be lowered to 60 percent and kept at or below that level. Countries that run up excessive deficits will be subject to direct EU intervention in their economic policies. 

The electorate in Ireland has a history of rejecting EU treaties, most recently in 2008, with the Lisbon Treaty on reformed Europe-wide governance. The treaty eventually passed in a repeat referendum, but only after concessions to Ireland.

In theory an Irish rejection could damage the treaty, but it is more likely to hurt Ireland. If the country is kept outside the deal agreed to by the other EU members (25 including Ireland, which agreed provisionally), any future funding from the EU and European Central Bank would be frozen.

The euro dipped against the dollar as news broke, but has since recovered. 

An opportunity to demand concessions

The content of the referendum question has not been announced — and confusion reigns. In December, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the question would come down to whether or not Ireland would stay with the euro currency


Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer


Doing Good


What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!