On 31 May, in a national referendum, the Irish people will take a stance on the Austerity Treaty, aka the Fiscal Compact. As Ireland is the only country where the Treaty will be tested at a referendum, powerful players are pulling out the heavy artillery to prevent a ‘No’. As if aware that the Austerity Treaty has nothing good to offer, the only card up their sleeve is a high-pitched scare campaign. All kinds of threats are being used to force a Yes vote.
“There is only one vote, and it’s a Yes vote” said Sean O’Driscoll, chairman of the Glen Dimplex manufacturing group, when he joined the big business chorus of agribusiness giants, pharmaceutical companies and others, in their claim that business would lose confidence in Ireland, and that a No would mean a sudden tumultuous and destabilising euro exit for Ireland.1
The voices of corporations are a helping hand to the Irish government, but in terms of rhetoric, the Irish right-wing parties are not in need of inspiration: “We will be back in the eye of the storm on 1 June,” said minister Eamon Gilmore when asked about the consequences of a No.
Another minister, Lucinda Creighton, warns that a “Greek style flight of capital is a very real – very imminent – issue”, and claims that Ireland will “have to go round with a begging bowl if we reject the treaty.”2
With the begging bowl she hints at the massive contribution of the European Union to the scaremongering. The German government managed to get the backing of the EU Council to insert a conditionality clause in the future ‘bail-out fund’ set up to provide loans to troubled economies in the eurozone.3 The clause reserves the funds exclusively for countries who have ratified the Fiscal Compact. Though the legal validity of the clause is disputed heavily by experts, access to funds under this so called ‘European Stability Mechanism’ is a recurrent theme in the Yes-campaign in Ireland, courtesy of the EU.
It remains to be seen whether the scaremongering is effective. It may be that the Irish people discover that the treaty would make the EU’s austerity medicine, which Irish society has already been exposed to in heavy doses (in order to get bailout loans), a permanent treatment. And that might make Ireland conclude that there is indeed only one possible vote: a resounding No.
- 1. Henry McDonald, Irish referendum no to EU treaty will prompt euro exit, business leaders warn, The Guardian, 15 may 2012.
- 2. Robbie Smyth, The Scary Times: The ‘Yes’ ministers in their own wild words, An Phoblacht, 14 May 2012.
- 3. Honor Mahony, Twenty five EU leaders sign German-model fiscal treaty, EUobserver, 2 March 2012.