FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan said today that any referendum here on the new EU deal would essentially be a vote on the country’s continued membership of the eurozone and he is confident a yes vote will pass.
“It really comes down on this occasion to a very simple issue, do you want to continue in the euro or not,” Mr Noonan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
“Faced with that question, I think the Irish people will pass such a referendum.”
He added that while it is not certain that Ireland would need a referendum on the EU inter-government treaty, it depended on whether any such text would amount to Irish constitutional change.
“I hope we will have the first draft before Christmas, then we’ll be able to do a legal assessment on it.”
He later added that he was confident a yes vote would pass.
"When faced with that question I think the Irish people will pass such a referendum," he said.
The deal, which means consenting governments signing up to strict budget rules, was vetoed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels last week.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Noonan said that he is part of the strangest Government this country as ever seen as it is almost a national unity government while he also reiterated his determination that Ireland will re-enter the bond markets in 2013.
He described 2011 as a relatively successful one for Ireland in terms of political stability and economic recovery.
In a speech to be delivered in London today he said that the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) plans to step up issuance of short-term debt in the second half of 2012, and follow this up with “some longer-term issuance” later in the year, markets conditions allowing.
“My key message to you is that we want to move out of the European Union-International Monetary Fund program and return to the markets at the earliest opportunity,” Mr Noonan said in an interview with Bloomberg.
“I intend that Ireland will give Europe its first success story as the recessionary cycle moves back in the right direction.”
The yield on Irish bonds 10-year bonds stood at 8.81pc today, up from 8.06pc a month earlier.
He also reiterated that Ireland won’t impose losses on sovereign debt holders or on holders of the country’s senior bank debt.
“I would stress that there is no question whatsoever about our sovereign signature,” he said.
Ireland is a small open economy with successful exporting companies, he said but warned that the economic environment is extremely challenging at the moment for Ireland and for Europe.
He said the Government has a plan that is designed to provide clarity, meet targets, return to growth and return to the markets.
The minister said it was a pity that what was agreed at last week's EU summit in Brussels was not endorsed by all EU member states but described the decisions as “significant steps” to alleviate investor concerns.
Mr Noonan was due to meet the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, for talks today.
British Prime Minister David Cameron vetoed last week's attempts to win unanimous support of EU member states for measures to save the euro and deal with the debt crisis.
The fallout from the Brussels summit decision was discussed during a telephone call between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Cameron last night.
A spokesperson said their discussions were positive.
But Mr Noonan did say he was concerned that the imposition of a financial transaction tax would be a concern for Ireland if it was introduced in Dublin and not in London.
The tax had been a red line issue for Mr Cameron at the Brussels summit last week.