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Hard-pressed Irish voters won't stomach much more pain to keep euro dream alive

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her new year message.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her new year message.

EPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her new year message.

THE findings of the recent Red C opinion poll showed that 72pc of Irish people would be unwilling to make further sacrifices to ensure the survival of the euro and that 69pc were unaware that a new voting system, giving bigger EU member states more power and taking power away from smaller member states, will be introduced during the coming year.

Our Government and political establishment should not dismiss the significance of these findings as just more euro-sceptic nonsense.

On the issue of paying to keep the euro project alive, Red C asked people: "If the continued existence of the euro required people in the eurozone to accept cuts in pay, pensions or welfare provisions, would they be willing to do so or not?" Almost 70pc said they would not be willing to accept such cuts to ensure the continued existence of the euro, while 27pc said they would.

Those willing to accept such cuts were from the higher social classes and more Dublin-based.

While it is generally accepted that Irish people support the euro and that at present there is no great public demand for leaving the currency, the Government should not overlook the significance of these findings.

Some commentators have already striven to interpret the results in a somewhat distorted way by claiming that "a quarter of Irish people would accept pay cuts to secure the euro's future". But no matter what way one spins it, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from the current findings is that a majority of people would reconsider their position on supporting the euro if its continued existence depended on their having to foot the bill to achieve this objective.

This fact should provide a strong health warning to any further plans by our Government to continue with more austerity measures in order to safeguard the euro and keep our EU superiors happy. Irish people may be happy with the euro but they appear unwilling to endure further pain to ensure its survival.

Indeed, the Irish have already paid a very high price to keep the euro alive. It is now a well accepted fact that in order to protect the euro project, pressure was put on the Irish Government by the ECB and some of our more powerful EU partners to provide the infamous 2008 blanket guarantee for all loans by Irish banks, thus transferring these bad loans on to the backs of the Irish people.

At that time the governor of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet, insisted that no bank be allowed fail -- not even Anglo-Irish, to which German, British and French banks had lent some €34bn to finance risky Irish property investments. If one bank was allowed to fall, then there would be a chain reaction across the eurozone.

Foreign banks, happy to inflate the earlier bubbles and make huge profits, were allowed to walk away unscathed because Ireland agreed, under pressure from Mr Trichet, to apply for a bailout whereby Irish taxpayers would pick up the tab and ensure German and other banks got their money back.

The other key finding of the Red C survey found that despite two referendum campaigns, 69pc of Irish people are still unaware of the most significant political change introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, which is that in 2014 voting in the all-powerful EU Council of Ministers will move to a population-based system, giving a significant increase in voting power to the big states at the expense of small states like Ireland.

From later next year, under the new population-based system, a qualified majority for the purposes of making EU laws in the Council of Ministers will require 55pc of the states -- which means 15 out of the 28 -- so long as that 15 comprise 65pc of the total EU population.

WITH Germany and France between them having one-third of the EU's population and half the population of the eurozone, this gives these two countries a blocking minority on any issue if they can get one or two smaller allies, as well as a powerful say in pushing through whatever measures they want.

Because Germany is the most populous EU state, its voting weight will rise from 8pc to 16pc compared to the present. Having a shareholding of 16pc in a company of 28 shareholders can be close to a controlling interest. Under this new arrangement the voting weight of France, Italy and Britain will rise from their present 8pc each to 12pc while Denmark's and Ireland's will fall from 2pc to 1pc.

Furthermore, the six largest EU states will increase their combined share of council votes from 49pc to more than 70pc; while the combined voting share of the 22 smallest states will fall from 5pc to less than 30pc.

The Lisbon Treaty was in effect a power-grab by the bigger EU states to increase their voting strength.

These findings come as no surprise to those who campaigned against the treaty because we argued consistently that the Government and the political establishment wanted to keep Irish people in the dark about this change to the EU law-making process.

With 69pc of people unaware of this change, they have clearly succeeded in this.

PATRICIA MCKENNA IS A FORMER MEP AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT.

Irish Independent