Battle lines drawn for EU treaty vote

Published Thursday, 17 May 2012
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With voters set to go to the polls in a fortnight to decide if the Republic of Ireland should ratify the EU fiscal treaty, UTV has been gauging support in Donegal.

The country has had to put up with searching inspections into its finances - the price of the multi-billion euro IMF bailout.

Now a referendum, due to be held on 31 May, will ask the Irish people if they want to approve a pact aimed at imposing more economic discipline on EU member states.

Those who support the treaty say it is designed to prevent another economic meltdown in the Eurozone, while opponents argue it will mean more austerity.

Currently the yes vote is ahead, with the most recent poll suggesting 40% of the public will say yes and 25% will say no - but crucially 35% say they haven't yet decided.

And in Co Donegal, UTV found that the anti-austerity movement is growing. Buncrana man Joe Murphy has taken to the street and roads to highlight his opposition.

"It's been proven now over the last few years that austerity doesn't work," he said. "It's not working."

The European Governments are pushing their societies over the cliffs with austerity measures and the people in Donegal are astute enough to see the effect it has had on the ground.

Owen Curran, Can't Pay Won't Pay Campaign

In March, Joe and 20 others embarked on a protest walk from Malin Head to Dublin, spanning some 300 miles and 21 days.

Along the way they picked up support.

Joe continued: "It had a massive impact. When you walk up O'Connell Street, just five fellas from Donegal, and you walk up O'Connell Street and the street is lined with people clapping and cheering... it brings it into reality.

"We did touch a nerve and we touched a nerve with people all over Ireland."

The Irish Government says it will continue to encourage people to vote yes - and inside Leinster House, the lead partner in the ruling coalition is campaigning strongly.

"I think that you can see the changes of a now stable Government has had an impact on Ireland and direct investment into Ireland," said Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty.

"The last piece of the jigsaw is to have stability not only in our currency but also stability in the European community which we are a member of."

But there is no unanimity within the Dáil. Sinn Féin argues that austerity hasn't worked and more of the same will prove bad for Ireland.

"The people across the state know what the policy of austerity means. They have had severe austerity budgets which has resulted in 440,000 people unemployed," said Donegal TD Pearse Doherty.

"This austerity treaty means more of that and it basically enshrines austerity into our parliament, into our national laws."

The UK has already rejected the pact in its current form.

Meanwhile the election of Francois Hollande as President of France has boosted the arguments of the trade unions.

Mr Hollande wants the EU to approve a growth pact to get Europe moving.

In Greece, the dire state of the economy coupled with austerity budgets has some talking of life outside the euro.

But that finds no real echo in Ireland where the euro is still the currency of choice.

"I think that the euro is here to stay," said Mary Minihane of the Irish Times.

"A poll today showed us that more than three quarters of the electorate want to stick with the euro, even people on the no side of this referendum like Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance which is a group of left wing TGs parliamentarians.

"They are saying no, we want to stick with the euro."

The government expects the treaty to pass in two weeks time.

However some argue that, should it not, there is a possibility that Ireland's reputation as a posterboy for tough economic reform could be spoilt.

© UTV News
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3 Comments
norman.d in bangor wrote (700 days ago):
when people see what this treaty is doing to greece and spain their economies are sinking fast with austerity and the choice the republic has if they vote yes is more austerity and vote no means they can promote growth and rule their own country finances
Grammar Nazi in Belfast wrote (700 days ago):
@Pat *grammar*
Pat in dublin wrote (700 days ago):
A lot of grammer mistakes in this piece, a lot.
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