Thursday 18 January 2018

TDs will be lobbied to back treaty referendum

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Fine Gael and Labour Party TDs will be pressured individually to support an official call for a referendum on tough new EU budget rules.

Independent TDs and senators yesterday kicked off a plan to force a referendum by securing the support of a third of TDs and half the senators.

To get the signatures of 56 TDs and 31 senators to petition President Michael D Higgins will require some Fine Gael and Labour Party members to break ranks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday rejected claims the Government deliberately tried to dodge holding a referendum on tough new EU budgetary rules. He said Irish officials were not directed to negotiate to avoid a referendum.

EU officials say Ireland was one of 10 countries that did not want the new treaty to be inserted into its constitution.

Before Christmas, the treaty was going to have to be ratified at "constitutional or equivalent level".

But the final text of the treaty says the debt brake, which is to prevent governments from borrowing, only has to come into effect in national law and be "preferably constitutional".

Also yesterday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said Ireland would get extra time to comply with the new budgetary rules as the country was already in a bailout programme.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the rules in the new treaty meant the Government would have to make €6bn worth of cuts to meet the targets.

Mr Noonan said Ireland would be given extra time by the European Commission to abide by the rules.

"Allowance is being made for countries with excessive deficits, especially countries in programmes like Ireland. And the timeline will be a matter for negotiation with the commission," he said.


"But certainly countries with larger deficits will have a longer period of adjustment than countries who have balanced budgets at present."

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny said the Government would not allow frontline public services to be damaged by the early retirements of 8,000 public sector workers.

He said that once the full range of early retirements became clear the plans for the health service allowed for flexibility to relieve pressure on particular areas.

Mr Kenny said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was examining the impact on the public service of the early retirement scheme.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin demanded a detailed plan setting out how the Government intended to deal with the retirements next month.

Irish Independent

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