Sunday 19 November 2017

Guarded approval of fiscal treaty as the best option on offer

A straw poll of business leaders reveals that most are in favour of Ireland sticking with Europe, writes Roisin Burke

WHATEVER about the feelings of the general public, Irish business leaders we spoke to were pretty bullish about Ireland sticking with Europe and voting for the EU treaty.

Rumblings about a referendum are growing louder, however desperate the Government is to avoid that can of worms being opened.

The EU fiscal treaty agreed by 25 countries including Ireland last Monday will attempt to rein in overspending by member countries and punish those who get sloppy with their budget deficits.

But will it be an economic straitjacket or a vital play in the EU getting its act together and avoiding decades of depression?

We asked business decision-makers if they would vote in favour of the treaty in a referendum and if they think Ireland's future lies within Europe.

Martin Naughton

Chairman, Glen Dimplex

"I would vote for the treaty. In my view there should not be a referendum unless the Constitution requires it. A referendum campaign would just be an expensive distraction.

"Ireland should be part of the fiscal compact (the UK is not in the euro and is by and large European-sceptical). Our future is solidly and vitally in Europe and the euro. The quicker we get rid of uncertainty, the quicker we can get on with the business of restoring our economy."

Oisin Fanning

CEO, San Leon Energy

"We should opt out of the treaty. My own view is that we should have opted out of the EU quite a while ago, pre-bailout.

"We should be proactive and we should be prepared to opt out. Greece is already effectively in default, Spain and Portugal are under serious pressure and Ireland will ultimately end up opting out of the euro and leaning towards Britain. We should be more aligned to Britain. Do we really want a transaction tax or more overbearing domination from Europe? God knows we've been kicked enough.

"What will happen in the long run is there will be a two-tier Europe and Ireland won't be part of tier one. We would be delusional to think otherwise. Therefore we should be proactive and opt out now by rejecting the treaty."

Pascal Taggart


"I believe there is no alternative for Ireland but to remain in Europe. We need Europe more than Europe needs us.

"However, this is an important constitutional change, so it needs to go to referendum. But if the Government and Fianna Fail get their acts together it should achieve victory. I appreciate that it's expensive and time-consuming, but that's democracy."

Nicola Byrne

CEO of 11890

"This treaty is been driven primarily by the Germans, who feel that governments across Europe have all been reckless and overspent and now need to be brought to heel.

"In return it offers an assurance of financial assistance for governments who meet the fiscal targets set for them -- in Ireland's case this will mean we have money to pay teachers, nurses, other public servants and pay welfare benefits.

"The price of the treaty is, however, very high, as it means formally handing over our sovereign economic power to Brussels. For example, this may mean that we no longer control our tax rates, including our corporation tax.

"As an Irish citizen and as a business person, I don't want to vote for this treaty, but alas I do not see any alternative. The risk for Ireland of not signing up is that we will quickly run out of money and our society will descend into financial chaos. Unless somebody shows me a viable alternative to supporting the treaty, I see no other option.

"Ireland does not have the same choices as Britain in this regard because Britain has its own currency and in any event is an infinitely stronger economy than Ireland."

Bobby Kerr


"I don't think there should be a referendum, as that would mean messing with the Constitution. That could enshrine austerity in the Constitution for years to come. And I don't think we should do that -- we can't think 20 years ahead.

"Referendums can give a space to air all sorts of unrelated grievances and that should be avoided. We're better off in Europe, so long as the EU doesn't do anything to disadvantage us."

John Reynolds

CEO, KBC Bank and

president of Irish Banking Federation

"I would vote yes in a referendum. The treaty introduces new limits on public debt and budget deficits and is in effect laying down good housekeeping rules for EU member states.

"I believe that change is necessary if we are to resolve the current eurozone crisis and lay the foundations for a stronger Europe in the future, and Ireland can only benefit from playing a full part in this treaty.

"I believe we should be part of the fiscal treaty within a context whereby we demonstrate solidarity with those whom we expect to fund our ongoing deficits.

"I think there is a realistic prospect of favourably renegotiating the terms of the debt arising specifically from the Irish bank bailout, with these improvements being won over time.

"Rejecting the treaty while our hand remains outstretched for funding would be a very bad basis for seeking accommodation in regard to the payment terms of our debt."

Cyril Maguire

Trintech founder

"I would support the fiscal treaty as the primary objective of the treaty is stronger fiscal rules leading to closer integration among members, especially from an economic perspective. That ultimately is a good discipline for Ireland, as we try to balance our budgets and reduce our deficit in order to rebuild our economy.

"It would also be important that Ireland's corporation tax and the proposed financial transaction tax would not be included for competitive and employment purposes from an Irish perspective.

"Ireland should play an inclusive role which would place it at the centre of EU policy. That is critically important for sustaining and maintaining the continued confidence of foreign direct investment. That is one of our strongest engines of growth and employment in our economy.

"I would welcome a referendum vote on the EU fiscal treaty as this important issue should be fully analysed and debated in an open forum."

Eddie Murphy

Chairman and MD of Ford Ireland

"I would be inclined to vote in favour of it. My gut feeling is that unless there is a major constitutional issue, it should be supported. Europe is definitely part of the solution for Ireland. It has played a vital role first in our development and now in bringing us back up and giving our best chance to return to growth.

'Referendums can give a space to air all sorts of unrelated grievances and that should be avoided'

"But hopefully our austerity measures and debt payback can be put on a better footing. Anything that would help in that regard is a positive.

"Stability on this matter would help the current lack of consumer confidence. We are three-and-a-half years into these tough times and the treaty is part of the roadmap out of them "

Michael Carey

Chairman of Bord Bia

"I would support the treaty. It is important that a resolution be finally achieved to the ongoing eurozone crisis and the uncertainty it has created. The proposed fiscal treaty is a step in the right direction."

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