Over the last twelve months my party has taken a leading role in pushing for the European Union to react more aggressively to the biggest economic crisis in its history. We have done this because of a simple and incontestable fact: for Ireland to recover we need Europe’s support. We need help in financing public services over the next few years – but we also need a return to growth in order to protect and build upon the hundreds of thousands of Irish jobs which depend on trade.
Today, as we have done for most of our history, we see the European Union as an essential ally for Ireland. We are not and never have been uncritical. The Union’s response to the crisis has been slow and halting. We have been pushing for a much wider and assertive set of actions by the Union. What can at last be said is that significant steps forward have begun and this Treaty enables one of them.
On May 31st the people will decide on the ratification of a short but important agreement between all of the members of the currency Ireland belongs to and eight other countries.
The Stability Treaty is not the answer to all of Ireland’s problems, but it is an important part of the answer. It is a reasonable response to what is now almost a Europe-wide crisis for states seeking money to fund public services.
All too often referendum debates are allowed to descend into a sterile debate of charge and counter-charge. A critical mistake of pro-EU parties is to allow rebuttals to dominate their own efforts.
If there’s one thing we should be very clear about now it is that the positive case for a Yes vote must be made. The Treaty will not pass if all the people hear is two sides exchanging attacks.
Of course we will be second to no one in tackling the distortions and inventions of the No campaigns, but we are determined that our campaign will be based on the strong and compelling positive case for a Yes vote.
We are supporting this Treaty for two key reasons.
Voting Yes will ensure that Ireland has access to the cheapest and most secure funding for our public services – and it is an essential part of the agenda to restore growth and job creation to Ireland and Europe.
In two years’ time Ireland will need to raise at least €18 billion from somewhere. We want Ireland to be able to borrow that money at affordable rates on the open market. If that’s not possible we want Ireland to have a secure alternative which it can afford. Both of these conditions require both proper budget controls and access to the European Stability Mechanism.
If investors know that Ireland has solid budget controls in place and has the backup of the ESM their willingness to lend to Ireland will increase and the interest rate we pay will reduce. The ESM itself as a final option represents the cheapest possible borrowing for Ireland.
Any alternative funding would lead to billions in extra interest payments, meaning more taxes and less spending.
Because it means cheaper and more secure funding a Yes is clearly the vote for the least austerity.
We also support the Treaty as part of the broader growth agenda. There is no scenario where strengthened fiscal controls are not part of restoring confidence and growth to Europe. They can and will not deliver growth by themselves, but they will help rebuild confidence and provide the foundation for further moves.
There is a building and I believe irresistible momentum towards a new growth agenda in Europe. Ireland must be more active in supporting this agenda. The Stability Treaty is a strong statement of good faith that countries understand the balance between pushing for growth and sustainable budgets.
Two years ago the ESM itself was unthinkable, now it is to be incorporated in the fundamental law of the Union. A further move on investing in growth and job creation will happen and a Yes vote brings this reality significantly closer.
One thing that this referendum has nothing whatsoever to do with is daily politics. It’s about the future of our country not about support for any party.
We believe that the government is making many serious mistakes in its economic policies. In its two budgets announced last year, the government hurt employment and was deeply unfair. Their implementation is increasingly incompetent.
We also believe that it has been too timid in its approach to European negotiations and has waited too long before supporting badly needed growth measures. We are on the same side of this referendum but nothing in this is in any way an endorsement of the government policies.
A core value for us since our foundation is that Ireland can only succeed if it works with other countries. Fifty years ago, a generation of our leaders which had fought for independence lodged our application to join the great European project. Since that time, a pro-EU position has been endorsed repeatedly by members at all levels of the party.
Through the next four weeks we will campaign nationally. Through public meetings and other activities we will engage the public with a positive message about the vital reasons for voting Yes.