Last year’s referendum in June 2008 took place under very different economic circumstances. While Bear Stearns had collapsed in March, and it was clear that the credit crunch had arrived, few realised what the true extent of the crisis would entail. The rise of unemployment in July of 19,000 was the highest ever monthly increase, and from then there seemed to be little good news. As unemployment grew, the pressure on the state’s social welfare budget grew while the tax intake shrank. The government found itself in a considerable deficit which two budgets and public sector pay renegotiation has failed to fully address. After guaranteeing the banks’ debt in September 2008, both the state and public found borrowing more costly as the major credit-rating agencies Moody’s and Standard and Poors downgraded Irish banks and Ireland’s credit sovereign rating.
We face this referendum then with a widely different economic situation. Both employers and unions realize how important it is to maintain a strong relation with Europe so that Irish bonds do not fall further in their standing in international markets. A vote that could be interpreted as eurosceptic would add uncertainty to our standing of our banks. Leading international firms, Intel, Ryanair, and Microsoft, have clearly stated their support for the implementation of the Treaty, taking active roles in calling for a Yes vote. Equally, ICTU General Secretary David Begg is a Patron of Ireland for Europe and, speaking on Tuesday, he stated that rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, allied to the return to power of the Conservative Party in Britain, could see Ireland “boxed in an Anglo-Saxon, Eurosceptic, northwestern corner of Europe” and could seriously hit Irish jobs.
These are the people who deal day-in, day-out with Irish employment, and they have clearly committed themselves to a Yes vote.