The Government hopes to pull a stroke within the next few weeks that could be as disastrous politically for this country as the blanket bank guarantee of 2008 has been socially and economically.
The stroke? Sign up, virtually ‘on the q.t.,’ to a new permanent euro-zone bail-out fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to which Ireland will be “irrevocably and unconditionally” obliged to the tune of €11 billion, while all the time making great palaver about holding a referendum on the Fiscal Compact Treaty.
Yet together the European Stability Mechanism and the Fiscal Compact Treaty represent quite fundamental moves in the direction of a qualitatively different euro zone from the one established under the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
Under the new regime virtually the whole area of budgetary policy will be removed from the national level to the supranational level of the euro zone, without a referendum.
The ESM treaty describes the two treaties as being “complementary.” So why not a referendum on both treaties? Legal advice from none other than the Attorney-General.
The present incumbent of that position, Marie Whelan SC? No. Her predecessor, Paul Gallagher SC, advised the previous Government that there was no constitutional problem in not holding a referendum.
It will be recalled that Gallagher also advised that Government on the night of the blanket guarantee for the Irish banks in September 2008.
So a change of Government did not result in a new, more independent approach to a developing euro-zone fiscal union, any more than it meant any real and significant loosening of the financial servitude imposed on the country by the previous Government. All done for the good of Irish banking interests and the German and French banks from whom they had borrowed.
Even at this late stage it is not too late to demand that the Attorney-General advises on the constitutionality of what the Government is trying to do—particularly in the light of the fact that there are significant differences between the earlier ESM Treaty that the previous Attorney-General advised on and the second version.
Under the ESM Treaty mark 2, any money from the permanent bail-out fund would be given only to states that had inserted the so-called permanent budget rule or “debt brake” in their constitutions or equivalent.