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Why I’m Voting Yes

30 May, 2012 3 comments

Tomorrow morning, I will vote Yes in the Referendum.

This is for two main reasons, that the fiscal limits make sense for countries to adopt in the context of a single currency, and that we almost certainly will need funding from an international fund, and that the European Stability Mechanism provides the best opportunity for this.

With a transnational currency, there have to be certain constraints on government deficits to prevent contagion from one country to another. These constraints do not mandate further austerity.

In the short term, we are in a program managed by the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They are lending us money to fund our government’s current inability to borrow on international markets. The restrictions on the government’s spending, mandating a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, are from the Troika, rather than any requirements of our euro membership. As things are, the state spends much more than it takes in, a gap that will have to be filled, but in a managed way in the hope of ensuring stability.

Balanced budgets in the long run are not the same thing as austerity. A balanced budget, or rather a deficit limit in this case, is about limiting the difference between the state’s income and expenditure. These concepts are explained in this video, produced two nights ago by friends of mine.

Governments can maintain both balanced budgets and relatively high levels of public spending, if they make that political choice. The Nordic countries have for years maintained both.

This Treaty was not designed with the Irish case in particular in mind. It was more focused on the case of Greece, which did overspend. So I accept the case of those who say that it would not have prevented the excessive spending here in the 2000s. That is not a reason to vote No. We need a currency that’s viable, and that means ensuring that a country like Greece could not put others at risk through its spending decisions.

I would like to see rules put in place to prevent governments within the euro area insuring debtors, rather than just depositors. What happened in September 2008 should not have happened, and the banks should not have been allowed to expect for that to have been on the table. But justified anger at this decision, and at the manner in which the European Central Bank is slow to reduce the amount to be repaid is not a good enough reason to reject this treaty.

We have no reason to expect that there would be a better deal on banking debt on offer before the end of the year on offer if we vote No. The very fact that it can come into force with 12 countries means that it was set up in a manner which allowed countries to opt out.

We will probably need funding. The best way to be sure of that is to vote for the Treaty. There is no way it could be easier or cheaper to get funding, whether from the IMF or if in some manner by a late entry to the ESM, than by passing this Treaty now. To quote from the preamble to the Stability Treaty,

STRESSING the importance of the Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism as an element of the global strategy to strengthen the economic and monetary union and POINTING OUT that the granting of financial assistance in the framework of new programmes under the European Stability Mechanism will be conditional, as of 1 March 2013, on the ratification of this Treaty by the Contracting Party concerned…

A post yesterday I read yesterday outlined the options we’d have for funding were we to vote No. None of them are appealing.

Even if we don’t need a second bail-out, to reject the mechanism by which we could receive one would send a signal of uncertainty to the markets. It is for these reasons that a survey of economists by Indecon showed that 90% believe that it is on balance in Ireland’s best interest to vote Yes. Similarly, in a survey by Dublin Chamber, 86% of business people are voting Yes.

I do not believe that we could vote No without risking social and political unrest. I read today sincere articles written by those I know from left-wing and from libertarian perspectives who would argue a No vote is needed to force fundamental restructuring. Perhaps they’re right. But as I look across the political situation in various European countries, I don’t want to see what might happen politically if an immediate adjustment to our budget had to take place.

So I am voting Yes as a small element in managing a recovery, and hopefully a new way of politics both domestically and in Europe.

We must campaign against the democratic deficit and waste of taxpayers’ money in European institutions. We must push against crony capitalism, and reassess how government should spend its money.

But we can do this and support the Treaty. So I will be voting Yes.

Letter to the Editor: Preparing for European treaty vote

Published in The Irish Times, 29 May 2012

A chara, – Seán L’Estrange (May 28th) voices concern about the wording of the amendment. He will be reassured to know that the wording is no different to the form that has routinely been used to allow the State to ratify European treaties. In 1972, we voted to insert a new Article 29.4.3°, “The State may become a member of the European Coal and Steel Community (established by Treaty signed at Paris on the 18th day of April, 1951), the European Economic Community (established by Treaty signed at Rome on the 25th day of March, 1957) and the European Atomic Energy Community (established by Treaty signed at Rome on the 25th day of March, 1957). No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State necessitated by the obligations of membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in the State.”

On Thursday, we are being asked to ratify only the treaty agreed on March 2nd of this year. Any further changes which would conflict with our Constitution would have to be put to the people, as was done seven times between 1972 and this year’s referendum, on each occasion with a similar form of words. – Is mise,

WILLIAM QUILL

Bray, Co Wicklow.

The honest No voices on our chances of funding

14 May, 2012 2 comments

This morning, Denis Donovan, a former Deputy Director at the IMF, clearly stated his view that without signing up to the agreements outlined under the Stability Treaty, the IMF would not fund us if we needed more money:

The IMF has made it pretty clear throughout this euro debt crisis that they only go in in partnership with Europe. That’s because they don’t want to put their money at risk…The IMF is very worried about getting repaid, it’s a big concern. If the Europeans are not willing to take the risk to lend to Ireland, there’s no way, in my view, that the IMF will be able to do it.

This corroborates and goes even further than the view of Karl Whelan, an economist from UCD, and a favourite of Sinn Féin, who when considering the possibility of emergency funding from the IMF only, wrote “What is clear, however, is that any programme approved would provide Ireland with far less funds than a second EU-IMF programme.  This will mean more austerity not less”.

So there we have it. If we opt out of this Treaty, and if we need emergency funding, our chances of getting IMF are between non-existent or one that’s much harsher than what we’re currently experiencing.

And as to Gerry Adams’s suggestion on The Week in Politics last night that we could avail of funding from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) without signing up to this Treaty. If we were Johnny-come-latelys to this the Stability Mechanism, they would equally be in no humour to be generous about terms. There’s nothing in this Treaty in terms of budgetary constraints that could be avoided if we needed emergency funding after this.

The only honest view on funding on the No side that I’ve encountered is that of Cormac Lucey. Writing in Business and Finance, he bases his argument on the very basis that voting No will mean that we will not have access to the ESM, “Allowing Ireland access to the ESM cookie jar from 2014 onwards would only give the public sector another excuse to delay its long-overdue adjustment to reality.” A fiscal hawk like Lucey would like us to get a harsh budgetary adjustment over and done with in one foul sweep, without any loans from outside to ease the process.

This is what those ton the left have to answer. If it is austerity they are campaigning against, why are they advocating a position that will make austerity much more likely?

Hoping for the internationalist victory in France

21 April, 2012 2 comments

It may be the land of Voltaire, Benjamin Constant and Fréderic Bastiat, but it is rare that a liberal today can hope for much from the politics of modern France. In this case, in terms of who I hope to win the French presidential election, the first round tomorrow, I am considering negatives as much as positives. In 2007, I thought Nicolas Sarkozy, who represents Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the largest centre-right party in France, would bring the economic reforms France needed. He delivered on some of this program, such as raising the retirement age from 60 to 62, but he has otherwise been disappointing.

One of the dangers in times of recession is a rise in nativism. This manifests itself in a retreat to the nation at the political level. In economic terms, this is protectionism and a preference for produce of the country. But for any country to be competitive, it must be willing to compete in a global world. If French people are not buying enough French products, it is a signal that they must adjust either their quality or price. Firms seek to grow, and they can only expect foreign markets to be even less forgiving than those of their compatriots. This principle does apply at a European Union level, where President Nicolas Sarkozy wants a “But European Act”, but more so yet at a national level, where he would seek such a measure in lieu of European protectionism.

Read more…

Fiscal Compact campaign

30 March, 2012 4 comments

One focus of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, taking place in the National Convention Centre today and tomorrow, will have to be the upcoming referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty, a relatively short agreement between 25 of 27 EU countries. If we want this country to remain part of the mainstream of decisions on the euro, we will have to vote Yes. Because it only requires 12 member states to ratify it to come into effect, there is no possibility of voting No once to get better terms in a second vote. This was possible with Nice between 2001 and 2002 and with Lisbon between 2008 and 2009 as these needed the support of all then 15 and 27 member states to pass.

It is not a perfect treaty in that it is not comprehensive. As one designed to prevent the fiscal difficulties countries have found themselves in, I had hoped that it would address banking, which was where Ireland most particularly suffered, rather than a focus on public debt and deficit which was where Greece and Italy got into trouble. Specifically, I had hoped for a constitutional bar or limits on future guarantees by governments of investment debt.

But the Treaty does make sense. These are terms that should have been in place from 1992 with Maastricht, and in effect from 1999 with the introduction of the euro. Fiscal supervision is a naturally important part of a monetary union. The Irish people could certainly benefit from measures reqiring balanced budgets. It is not about imposing austerity, but about putting in places mechanisms to prevent a requirement for future austerity. It is a way of saying Never Again to fiscal imprudence.  It is distinct from our fiscal program under the troika of the EC/ECB/IMF and those terms will not be affected by this Treaty. There is in fact very little that’s new in it.

We will also need to support this Treaty to gain access to the European Stability Mechanism, i.e. if we needed a further bailout. I don’t think we will need that. But if there were only a five percent chance that we would need to access this fund, we would surely not want to cut off that option for ourselves.

Though not a vote on our membership of the euro, it is a vote on the nature of that membership. If we vote No, we will be very clearly outside the mainstream of decision-making on our own currency.

This is not a partisan matter for me, one that I’m supporting because of my membership of Fine Gael. If anything, the reverse is in some part the case. I campaigned for the Lisbon Treaty in both 2008 and 2009, and it was after the second campaign that one of those I worked with in the offices of Ireland for Europe and Generation Yes, who is now President of Young Fine Gael, particularly encouraged me to get involved in Fine Gael. This will be the first European Treaty referendum fought with Fine Gael in government and we will have to launch a serious and focused campaign, fought on the merits of the compact itself. It will not be good enough to complain if other issues are brought into the debate. It will be up to the Yes side, in all parties and civic society groups, to steer the debate in the way that addresses the issue at stake.

So I look forward to a good campaign on this.

Categories: EU Politics, Fine Gael Tags:

Nigel Farage attacks President Van Rompuy

25 February, 2010 Leave a comment

Nigel Farage, United Kingdom Independence Party MEP, used the occasion of the first visit of Herman Van Rompuy, the new President of the European Council, to let him know exactly what he thinks of him, going as far as to call Belgium a non-country.

Leave aside the fact that Mr Farage undermines his argument by his lack of basic courtesy, given President Van Rompuy’s standing, his power and influence cannot be seen to be overbearing in the way suggested. As I have written before, someone like Herman Van Rompuy is the best person for the job for those who worry about the encroaching power of the European Union. Given a choice between Mr Van Rompuy and someone with greater presence, surely Mr Farage should rather fear the alternative.

Personally, I think we’d be better off having someone whom President Obama would naturally think to meet at summits. Or else, damn the lack of words in French vocabulary, rename Mr Van Rompuy’s position Chair of the European Council, which is all it really is, so that José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, is the clear occupant of the top role, rather than the multiplicity and confusion we have now.

A President to please Eurosceptics

22 November, 2009 Leave a comment

During the Lisbon Treaty campaign, Declan Ganley made a big deal of the fact that it created the positions of the unelected President of Europe and the unelected Foreign Minister. I’ve critiqued this in another forum, and now with the appointment yesterday, we see that there was too much truth to my rebuttal.

The position is not, of course, that of President of Europe, but President of the European Council. The role has no executive power, and serves only to act as a chairman at the meetings of the European Council, the forum at which the 27 heads of the government of EU countries meet and decide the policy of the Union. Valéry Giscard d’Éstaing said that the best way to describe it was with the English word chairman, but in French, every such role ends up being called président. It wouldn’t make sense for it to be popularly elected under such circumstances. And no country I know of elects its Foreign Minister directly, so no one could expect that to be the case with our new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

But even if the role is to be no more than a chairman, I would still like to be inspired. I wish there had been a little more truth to Declan Ganley’s claims. European leaders had allowed the role to be built up in people’s minds, that it would be someone who could stand on the world stage and meet Barack Obama, Hu Jintao or Vladimir Putin. José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, currently serves something of that role, as when he took part in the G20 meetings. But he is really the head of Europe’s civil services, while the President of the European Council can said to speak for the respective heads of government.

That was all they wanted him to do, apparently. That he would represent accurately the various positions of the 27 leaders. Tony Blair was never really a runner as a candidate; his early standing as favourite was merely because the clear anyone-but-Blair candidate had yet to emerge. But it was not just his unpopularity even among his own Party of European Socialists that hurt Blair, it was that they wanted nothing like him. They wanted someone who would not hurt the profiles of the big hitters in Europe. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded Tony Blair, but his general unpopularity would have made him an unwise choice.

President-elect Herman Van Rompuy is perfect for those who fear the overarching Europe, who worry about the powers wielded by the unelected Eurocrats. We were told to worry because the role of President isn’t well-defined, beyond chairing meetings of the Council. No one expects him to do more than that. But is this what we went to all this trouble for?

Added to this was the even more uninspiring choice for High Representative, Commissioner for Trade Catherine Ashton, a British life peer who has never held elected office. Holding onto the possibility of Blair for President, while all knew it would never happen, was a clever way for Gordon Brown to get leverage, and might serve as a way to show the Conservatives that they can get something out of Europe. But according to reports, she wasn’t even the top Briton discussed for the job, with David Miliband, the foreign secretary, Peter Mandelson, the business secretary, Geoff Hoon, former defence secretary, ahead of her. I wonder if the US State Department had a greater file on her than what they found on Wikipedia. While she insists she was the best person for the job, it’s probably more true that she got it because David Miliband would like to be leader of the Labour Party this time next year.

One thing particularly discouraging about President-elect Van Rompuy is his reason five years ago for dismissing the admission of Turkey into the EU, appealing to Christianity, and Turkey being an Islamic country. This is not helpful, either in encouraging Turkey to modernize, or in integrating the many Muslims living within the European Union. Nor is it a justification which I, as an atheist, particularly think is helpful.

Economists for Europe – 5 Economists and one opinion

29 September, 2009 Leave a comment

Published on the Ireland for Europe blog

As previously noted here, a recent Indecon survey reported that 90.8% of economists asked said that Ireland’s overall economic interests were likely to be best secured by a Yes vote.

These were economists from the seven Irish universities, from the ESRI and from Indecon itself. Economists working for the media, banks, government departments or agencies, or with employer or trade union organisations were not included.

In light of this, we held a seminar earlier today titled Economists for Europe, chaired by Dr Alan Ahearne, Special Advisor for the Minister for Finance, and with presentations from Dr Alan Gray of Indecon, Prof. Antoin Murphy of Trinity College, David Croughan of IBEC and Paul Sweeney of ICTU (so, of course, only Gray and Murphy contributed to the Indecon survey).

In his opening remarks, Dr Ahearne reported that the American Chamber of Commerce have said that they provide 300,000 reasons to vote Yes. He emphasised the benefit our EU membership gives us as a traditionally export-based economy, which is to be the case again after the brief period earlier this decade when we were demand-based. 62% of our exports go to other EU countries. Given this emphasis in our economy, he said that it was important for us that the globalised world functioned well.

Alan Gray, Managing Director of Indecon International Consultancy Group, prefaced his remarks by stating that both he and other economists tended to stay away from political commentary, but felt it important to intervene on this occasion. He said that the fundamental question was about confidence, something which can have a major impact, even if not easily quantifiable in models. He said that the economic question is not about the Treaty per se, but about the vote. If there were no vote on Lisbon, we would not feel its absence, but the vote itself would send out a particular message which would be difficult to explain to potential investors. He also made the point that investors would generally give very little attention to Ireland, so this could have a serious impact on perception.

Prof. Antoin Murphy, of the Department of Economics in Trinity College, Dublin, highlighted the help we received from the European Central Bank in two periods: the initial stage of multinational growth from the late 1980s, and in the past year when we needed an injection of liquidity. He also refuted claims that bond prices have already taken our rejection into account, as the trend downwards, rather than upwards as would be expected in such a case.

Paul Sweeney, economic advisor to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, referred to The Charter Group, a pro-Treaty lobby group. He also admitted that there were concerns about workers’ rights in the EU, but that these had nothing to do with Lisbon. He appealed to the right of collective bargaining in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the benefits of FDI which we have from being less Eurosceptic than Britain. He termed Cóir’s poster on the danger of a €1.84 minimum wage as a disgusting lie.

David Croughan, chief economist of the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation, talked of how business was overwhelmed by the benefits of the internal market and the single currency. In terms of specific changes Lisbon would introduce, he outlined the benefits of the Protocol on Eurogroup in terms of closer coordination and dialogue between finance ministers. He said that business never really thought there was a problem threat to our direct taxation last time, and that despite what we might have heard, he felt that our international reputation was damaged last year.

In conclusion, Dr Alan Ahearne recalled the old joke that if you have five economists in a room, they’d have six opinions between them. On this occasion, however, they were all of one mind, that a Yes vote was a crucial component of our route to economic recovery.

What Declan Ganley is not addressing

28 September, 2009 Leave a comment

Published on the Ireland for Europe Blog
Over the weekend, I looked back on the points Declan Ganley made at the launch of Libertas’s campaign two weeks ago.

As I watched this, I found that nearly every point he made could be disputed, if not refuted. Below is a critical analysis of his case.

He begins by stating that this is the same European Constitution that the French and the Dutch rejected, and that we rejected last year, ignoring the key symbolic changes made to the Constitutional text to remove the statelike trappings which were of such concern, and in the Irish case, it ignores the European Council of December 2008 to agreement to keep our Commissioner and the June 2009 agreement with the legally-binding guarantees.

He then says that the Lisbon Treaty is not about jobs or the economy, arguing that it would be a handicap to us, as we’re moving several key areas to be decided at EU level. He’s in a small minority on this. 90% of independent Irish economists in a recent Indecon survey, with no connection to the government, unions, employer groups or the media, believe a Yes vote is important for our recovery. This report looks at a number of reasons, mainly related to the effects of the perception of being eurosceptic on both funds from Europe and whether multinationals choose to locate here.

Mr Ganley goes on to disparage claims that decisions in the boardrooms of America would be affected by a No vote, citing The Wall Street Journal. But one Murdoch-owned newspaper is hardly enough to make that point. Fair enough, Mr Ganley would argue, he’s since made use of an article by Wolfgang Munchau of the Financial Times, who had strongly supported the Lisbon Treaty last year, in which he has become more critical of it. But whatever Mr Munchau’s criticisms, he is still ultimately in favour of the ratification of the Treaty.

But whatever the FT or the WSJ might say, surely the American Chamber of Commerce should carry more weight than opinion pieces, however highly regarded. They have clearly stated that they favour a Yes vote, citing 300,000 reasons to vote Yes.

Mr Ganley then claims that nothing has changed, citing Baroness Kinnock, who had said that the Treaty itself would not need to be re-ratified by the Houses of Parliament. True, the Treaty itself may not have changed, but each of the 27 governments are bound by the European Council agreement, which has been lodged with the UN, with the same status as the Belfast Agreement.

He complains about European bureaucrats giving information to Irish schoolchildren on the EU. It sounds here as if he’s complaining about them canvassing, which was unlikely, given the age demographic. More realistically, they were informing young citizens about their polity. This is typical of those on the No side, to give out that the EU is distant, but then continue to do so when it tries to connect with the people.

He then claims that tax harmonization is on the agenda. This is clearly false. Not only do we now have a clear guarantee on taxation, which has assured Sen. Shane Ross, who cited this as his main concern last year, but direct taxation is in no way, shape or form an EU competence. There is nothing the EU could do, no matter what the French or others want, to affect our rates of corporate or income taxation.

He then talks of empowering people who we can never vote out of office. But no one who is not elected and accountable to the people can make EU laws. The Commission, appointed by the Governments, may propose laws, but it is the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament under Lisbon, which legislates.

He claims that Lisbon creates an unelected President of Europe. This is the President of the European Council, who is Giscard d’Éstaing’s words, acts more like a chairman than anything else. They would have no policy agenda, there’d be nothing to organize a 27-member popular election on.

More bizarrely, he criticizes the fact that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is also unelected. What country in the world elects its foreign minister? Were Micheál Martin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, David Miliband or Bernard Kouchner directly elected?

He makes a big deal of the fact that the EU is given legal personality and that we will become citizens of the European Union. That has been the case since Maastricht, so that is an objection to the position of the last seventeen years, not to measures in the Lisbon Treaty.

He claims that we don’t need the agreement on the Commissioner that comes into effect with the Lisbon Treaty, as the Swedish Prime Minister has outlined a 26 + 1 arrangement, giving the High Representative to the 27th country. This is not the position of Commissioner that was of such importance to us, and this agreement would only last till the next enlargement.

He goes on then to throw out the term democratic deficit, as if Lisbon exacerbates this. It doesn’t. Under Lisbon, we will have:

  • greater scrutiny to national parliaments to make sure European institutions aren’t overstepping their remit

  • the European Parliament having joint legislative powers and review of the budget
  • the Citizens’ Initiative. Yes, the Commission doesn’t have to accept it, but we can’t even put something on the Irish Cabinet’s agenda
  • the Council of Ministers voting in public

He dismisses the campaigns by Intel and Ryanair on the basis that they are merely trying the ensure that they will not receive further fines from the European Commission. Even if one were to take that view, it would be to ignore the fact that businesses of all levels are calling for a Yes vote. The members of the Small Firms Association and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association have overwhelmingly shown support for the Treaty, while the main social partners ICTU and IBEC are supporting it too.

Mr Ganley might have strong business credentials, but we really should not take his word as our guidance on this matter on clear importance to our position in Europe and the wider world. He arguments do not stand up to scrutiny, and he has not addressed these areas of the debate.

Why business and unions are campaigning for Lisbon this time

24 September, 2009 Leave a comment

First published on the Ireland for Europe blog

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.

Economic effect of the Lisbon Treaty vote

23 September, 2009 Leave a comment

First published on the Ireland for Europe blog

Those on our side of this debate have been criticized for linking the Lisbon Treaty with jobs or recovery. It is, of course, not as simple as a claim that there will be jobs that will be created or maintained directly because of the vote on the Treaty, but it is part of the process. It is because of the reality that we attracted multinationals to this country for many reasons, such as our low tax rates and our well-educated English-speaking population, but also because we provided a link to a European Union which now has a population of 500 million.

If we were to vote No, the appetite for reform among other European countries would not be diminished. But with the likely election of the highly Eurosceptic David Cameron as Prime Minister, the United Kingdom could well decide to opt out of that process. After a second No vote, European leaders could justly assume that we had made our decision clear that we did not wish to be part of that process either. While the United Kingdom could afford to go it alone if they wished, we should not consider this an option for us.

It is true that we will remain members of the European Union no matter what way we vote on 2 October. But a No vote will mean that we will not be a part of core decision-making processes. Particularly for those who have had concerns about EU policies in the past, such as on agriculture and fisheries, it is crucial that Irish voices are heard at all levels of the EU.

This might seem like a biased analysis coming from this organization. It is backed up, however, by those who have no interest beyond creating and securing jobs, and by independent economic analysts. Those working at all levels, whether small firms, medium enterprises or multinationals, have emphasised the importance to job-creation and maintenance in this country of a strong commitment to Europe.

A recent survey by IBEC found that 86% of employers polled believed the passing the Lisbon Treaty was important or very important to Ireland’s recovery. In its statement, IBEC Director of EU and International Affairs Brendan Butler said: “Ireland has been very successful in attracting major investment from abroad, which in turn has led to the creation of many jobs. Being fully engaged with Europe is vital to ensure this continues. A yes vote will send a positive signal to foreign investors that Ireland is committed to being a key player in the world’s most successful economic union.”

Most significant is perhaps the judgement of academic economists in the Indecon report, which surveyed the views of the 66 non-government economists in all Irish universities and the ESRI. The report concluded that our vote would have a significant effect on the cost of borrowing. Alan Gray, one of the authors of the report, wrote that “a No vote would result in additional concerns about Ireland’s precise role in Europe at a time when we cannot afford any self-imposed additions to our economic problems.” Equally, many economists have spoken out in their own capacity, such as Prof. Alan Matthews writing for Irish Economy yesterday.

It is vital not to create this uncertainty about Ireland’s place within the European Union at this time given the state of our public finances, the cost of borrowing and our rate of unemployment. Over the remaining nine days, we will be maintaining a focus on this aspect of the referendum and the implications of our vote.

Jesuits supporting the Lisbon Treaty

21 September, 2009 Leave a comment

Published on the Ireland for Europe blog

In an earlier post, I looked at the support that prominent Catholics have given to the European project. Of particular note in recent weeks have been a few Jesuits, making their voice heard first in their objection to Cóir’s misuse of Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ.

In this video, Fr Edmond Grace, SJ, answers the question why we should be voting on the Lisbon Treaty again, given last year’s rejection.

Also worth checking, is a blog by Fr Fergus O’Donoghue, SJ, who has posted a few items recently on the Lisbon Treaty.

The facts: Abortion and the EU

21 September, 2009 Leave a comment

First published on the Ireland for Europe blog

Despite the clear guarantees which we have secured on successive occasions, Cóir have persisted with the pernicious deception that Ireland’s position on abortion is being threatened.

It is helpful then to outline precisely what protections exist in Irish Constitutional law on abortion, and what European Union provisions protect this measure.

Article 40.3.3°

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state.

This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

Because of concerns on abortion, we secured a Protocol as part of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 ensuring that this provision would not be affected.

Protocol 17 of the Maastricht Treaty

Nothing in the Treaty on European Union, or in the Treaties establishing the European Communities, or in the Treaties or Acts modifying or supplementing those Treaties, shall affect the application in Ireland of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution of Ireland.

After the concerns raised during last year’s campaign on ethical issues, the Government secured an agreement with the 26 other EU countries which would come into law on the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and would have the force of law of any international treaty, like the Belfast Agreement.

European Council Guarantee 2009

Nothing in the Treaty of Lisbon attributing legal status to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, or in the provisions of that Treaty in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice affects in any way the scope and applicability of the protection of the right to life in Article 40.3.1, 40.3.2 and 40.3.3, the protection of the family in Article 41 and the protection of the rights in respect of education in Articles 42 and 44.2.4 and 44.2.5 provided by the Constitution of Ireland

The European Union cannot not make laws in areas not specified by the Treaties, and there is no mention of abortion anywhere in any of them. Furthermore, the European Court of Justice has previously made explicitly clear in its rulings that the EU has no competence to decide a country’s laws on the matter of abortion.

These guarantees in our own Constitution, in EU Treaty law and from rulings of the ECJ make clear that this claim has absolutely no basis whatsoever.

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Myers convinced to vote Yes by the No campaigners

19 September, 2009 Leave a comment

Published on the Ireland for Europe blog

Kevin Myers

Kevin Myers

We were pleased to welcome the support this morning of Kevin Myers, who came out as a convert to the Yes side in this morning’s Irish Independent.

In it, he excoriated the new leaflet published by the UKIP‘s European Parliamentary Group.

The ‘No’ pamphlet also showed a picture of a large hypodermic with the caption: “Will we get EUthanasia?” Well, that kind of disgusting and disingenuous question is what we repeatedly got during the infamous divorce referendum debate in the 1980s. And my answer is that if we do get EUthanasia, the very first people we should EUthanase are the fine fellows who went in for EUthanasia scare tactics before the referendum.

A comparable piece of mischief was at work with the pamphlet’s sly and grubby query: “Do you wish to split up the family farm?” Ah, that one again.

At least, the ‘No’ pamphlet spares us any wheedling insinuations about conscription and neutrality — perhaps because the authors know that, aside from the fir-bolg Left, as characterised by the Rossport potties, most people know that our neutrality is dead. We are Europeans. Our soldiers must be part of the European Reaction Force, and have already served in Chad within that military framework. .

President of the Council

18 September, 2009 Leave a comment

First published on the Ireland for Europe blog

One of Declan Ganley’s talking points on his return to the campaign was his objection to what he called the “unelected President of Europe”. The position is usually referred to as such by those critical of the new post. The position is in fact titled the President of the European Council. It replaces the rotating presidency held by the head of government of the each of the states for six months. Its job is to chair the meetings of the Council of Ministers.

The Lisbon Treaty will create a 2½-year term with the same function. It will be a more high-profile role, but they will have no policy agenda. There would be nothing for them to campaign on in any popular election that Mr Ganley desires. During the Convention which drafted the text of the Lisbon Treaty, Valéry Giscard D’Éstaing was describing what the role would in effect entail. The word “Président” is used much more in French than it would be in English, so for the only time, he used an English word, “c’est le mot anglais – chairman”.

But why this assumption that any government representative must have a direct democratic mandate? The Taoiseach could in Ganley’s terms be described as unelected, as could Britain’s Prime Minister or Germany’s Chancellor or most of the heads of government in Europe. Our representatives in the Dáil elect the Taoiseach, just as our representatives in Europe elect the Presidents of the Commission, of the Parliament, and as would be the case under Lisbon, of the Council of Ministers.

More absurdly, Mr Ganley even decried the fact that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will not have a mandate from the people. While some countries, like France and the United States, might elect their head of government, no country elects their foreign minister.

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