Saturday 1 October 2016

A landmark vote in the democratic cradle

Published 29/06/2015 | 02:30

The Greek voters will go to the polls next weekend with a strong message of condemnation from their prime minister for the package they are being asked to vote upon
The Greek voters will go to the polls next weekend with a strong message of condemnation from their prime minister for the package they are being asked to vote upon

The Greek people are being asked to vote next Sunday on the complex and harsh terms of the EU economic bailout. It is a vote without precedent in modern Europe. Irish voters have never been given such a direct and fundamental economic choice.

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We have been asked to vote 35 times in referendums on constitutional change, many of which were extremely arcane. Many fundamental changes happened without a vote. In January 1999, for example, we abolished the national currency and joined the European Single Currency without a specific vote.

On that occasion, the Irish Government relied upon the 1992 vote on the EU Maastricht Treaty which, among other things, provided for the creation of the euro. The Maastricht vote had been sold to Irish voters as something which would lead to a huge influx of "Brussels billions" in regional and social fund grants over the following decade.

Ireland's November 2010 EU-ECB-IMF bailout was never voted upon by the people. The nearest we came to a vote on such things was in July 2012 when Irish people were asked to endorse the EU Fiscal Treaty, obliging governments to keep a tighter rein on public spending relative to income.

On that occasion, voters, shell-shocked by ongoing deep recession, endorsed the EU Fiscal Treaty by 60pc in favour to 40pc against. The majority decided to stay in tow with the EU as the best hope of an exit from economic perdition.

The Greek voters will go to the polls next weekend with a strong message of condemnation from their prime minister for the package they are being asked to vote upon. But there is also a sizeable volume of the Greek people who hold a view similar to that expressed by the Irish majority in July 2012, that the EU way, bitter though it may be, is the only hope of longer-term salvation. The vote also comes in a place which gave the world the very concept of democracy.

The outcome of next Sunday's referendum in Greece will be watched with keen interest across Europe and beyond. The potential fallout in the interlinked world economy will be significant. Ireland's fragile economic recovery could be blighted by global market uncertainty which would certainly follow a Greek 'No'. The European Union and the eurozone face an uncertain future.

We must be determined in efforts to defeat terror

The thoughts and prayers of the Irish nation are with the families of the victims of the terror attack on a popular Tunisian resort. Our empathetic thoughts are not confined to the Irish families caught up in this latest unspeakable atrocity.

Decent people across the world will reflect that horrific acts such as this one leave us with a mix of grief, rage and some sense of helplessness.

This is an enemy which falsely claims to represent Islam; an enemy we cannot often see; an enemy we cannot really understand what it is they are seeking.

On days such as this, many of us will acknowledge that sorrow has, for now, got the better of us.

But from there we must regroup and recommit to fighting this fiendish terror.

Efforts to continue optimising security must be stepped up. But such security initiatives must be weighed against the consequent diminution of our rights and freedoms.

These rights and freedoms are precious. Ceding too many of them in the name of security brings its own dangers. Finding the right balance between liberty and an effective war against terror must remain a priority.

Irish Independent

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