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Sunday 24 September 2017

'Meek' Kenny attacked for not changing text of treaty

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Government confirmed yesterday that there would be no changes to the EU fiscal treaty -- leading to further complaints from No campaigners.

It had been under pressure to postpone next week's referendum in the wake of speculation that Francois Hollande, France's new president, would secure changes to the treaty.

But Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore confirmed yesterday that the treaty would remain unchanged after the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels.

"What is being voted upon on this day week is exactly the treaty that has been signed. There are no changes in that treaty, nor will there be any changes to it," he said.

He told the Dail that EU leaders were going to work on a growth pact to accompany the treaty. But this would only be decided upon in June -- after the referendum.

That led to opposition complaints that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Government had been "meek" when it should have been pushing for changes to the treaty, which will require the State to put budget disciplinary rules into national law.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimghin O Caolain said the "carefully crafted German-engineered text" of the treaty had only one gear. "There is no reverse. The steering is locked; it cannot turn right or left. We are heading straight for . . . the consequences," he said.

But Mr Gilmore said that Sinn Fein had been wrong when it backed the state banking guarantee in September 2008 and was also wrong in opposing the fiscal treaty.

"I am sick and tired of Sinn Fein taking every opportunity to talk down this country, to talk down the people of this country and to talk down the opportunities that should be there for them for employment," he said.

Fianna Fail supported the Government's stance on the treaty but the party's health spokesman Billy Kelleher was thrown out of the Dail for shouting at Mr Gilmore. He had become enraged after Mr Gilmore talked about NAMA's plans to spend €2bn on finishing properties to create 35,000 building jobs.

Hypocritical

"The Tanaiste is the most hypocritical man I have heard. He once accused NAMA of being a bailout for bankers and developers. The hypocrisy is appalling," Mr Kelleher said.

But Mr Gilmore said it was part of the Government's investment plan. And he said that one of the Government's proposals at the EU summit was to get access to €82bn of unspent EU structural funds. "Structural funds which have not been used in the European Union need to be used to address the problems of youth unemployment," he said.

Ireland has already spent its full allocation of structural funds, but there are still large sums in the kitty because other countries have not taken up their share. The unemployment rate among young people aged 19-24 is 26.5pc -- far higher than the national average of 14pc.

Irish Independent

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