Outrage as we lose our ECB automatic voting rights
It marks further loss of sovereignty
Ireland will lose its automatic voting rights at the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB), the Sunday Independent can reveal. The Central Bank has confirmed that the loss of our permanent vote at ECB council level is imminent as a result of a change in voting structures caused by the entry of Lithuania into the Eurozone from January 1 next year.
From the beginning of next year Ireland will be relegated to the second tier of smaller Eurozone countries, which will have less voting rights than the five biggest countries sitting on the council.
Fianna Fail last night described the move, which represents a further loss of sovereignty, as a "bad day for Ireland" and said it "nails the myth" that all Eurozone countries are equal.
The council, on which Irish Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan represents Ireland, dictates an enormous amount of our fiscal and economic policy.
The arrival of Lithuania will bring the number of Eurozone countries to 19. As there can only be 15 votes the Eurozone will move to a two-tier system. Five of the largest countries will form Group One and the remaining 14 countries, including Ireland, will form Group Two. Group One will share five votes in rotation while Group Two will share 11 votes in rotation.
Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes, who is Ireland's only representative on the powerful Economic Committee of the European Parliament, has written to ECB President Mario Draghi seeking assurances that Ireland's status will not be diminished.
Mr Hayes told the Sunday Independent: "It is very important that we do not create a second-class membership of the ECB under the new system. It is important for all countries big and small to have an input into the decision-making process.
"We have to be cautious and ensure that smaller countries, like Ireland, don't lose out in any way and that our influence is maintained."
Mr Hayes said Ireland could find itself on the "wrong side" of the ECB's monthly decisions on key monetary decisions, such as interest rates He also warned Ireland could be excluded from ECB voting for four months a year if the Eurozone expanded further.
Mr Hayes added: "I have written to Mario Draghi seeking assurances that in no way will Ireland's influence be reduced because of this. We have to manage this and it is up to me and other MEPs to ensure this doesn't happen."
Opposition parties last night condemned the latest blow to Ireland's sovereignty.
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath told the Sunday Independent: "This move nails the myth that all Eurozone members are equal. It has been clear for quite a number of years that the ECB's policy has been dictated by the economic needs of France and Germany. That position has now been formalised. This represents a diminution in Ireland's voice at the ECB Governing Council table. It can have ramifications when decisions are being taken on interest rates to suit the larger economies in Europe."
Mr McGrath said the new rules formalised the position that members of the Eurozone are not equal and our influence at ECB level was now being diminished.
"It is a sad day for Ireland and could have lasting negative consequences," he said.
"It does open the appalling vista that when important decisions are being made concerning Ireland we will not have a vote.
"It represents a further departure from the spirit of the EU model that all states are equal. That fundamental principle has been breached and is now being formally enshrined in the ECB's practices. I do not see why each Eurozone country can't remain equal having a vote on each decision."
A Central Bank spokeswoman confirmed Ireland would lose its permanent seat at ECB level. However, she said Governor Honohan would still be able to partake in all discussions, even when he wouldn't have a vote.
She also stressed that the ECB mostly worked by consensus, without having to resort to a vote.