Tuesday 12 December 2017

Donegal TD challenges Fiscal Treaty referendum in High Court

Independent Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle. Photo: Tom Burke
Independent Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle. Photo: Tom Burke

INDEPENDENT Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle has brought a High Court challenge over what he says will be the "far reaching" effects of the May 31 referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty.

Mr Pringle claims the Government intends to use a "Yes" vote in the referendum to push through another treaty in relation to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and to change an existing treating on the functioning of the EU itself - without putting these matters to a vote.



He wants the High Court to examine the legality of this because he says the Fiscal Stablity Treaty is intertwined with the ESM Treaty and an amendment to an existing treaty.



While his action will not affect the holding of the referendum, he says if the court finds that the ESM Treaty is unlawful, then there will be a question over the validity of a Yes vote in this month's referendum.



He claims the ESM Treaty will set up a €500 billion bailout fund which will give the power to an ESM institution to call on Ireland to contribute more than €11billion to that fund in various forms of capital. That's the equivalent of around one-third of Government revenue for last year and the ESM can increase that figure at any time with no limit, he says.



In effect, he says, the ESM can direct the State to raise sovereign debt, give the money so raised to it, and can then decide whether and how it is to be spent.



Yesterday, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy gave his lawyers, Noonan Linehan Carroll Coffey, permission to serve short notice on the Government of their intention to seek an expedited hearing of the matter. The application was made with only one side represented and the judge made it returnable to next week.



Mr Pringle says the changes proposed are so fundamental they should also require the approval of the Irish people.



He wants the court to consider whether the ESM Treaty - the second treaty which he says the Government will push through without a vote - is in breach of existing EU principles which have been approved in previous referendums.



He also wants the court to examine the legality of an amendment to an existing treaty which he says will also be pushed through without a vote if the May 31 referendum is passed. This will be an amendment to Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).



He wants the court to look at this amendment before any further action is taken by Government to approve it.



This amendment is being adopted under a so called "simplified revision procedure" which he says is legally wrong and should also be subject to a constitutional referendum.



While he welcomes the Fiscal Stability treaty referendum, he says that due to intense pressures on the Government, the need for referendums on these other matters has not been fully scrutinised.



In order to assist such scrutiny, has brought his High Court challenge, he says.

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