THE decision of the Government to hold a referendum on the fiscal compact is a welcome one. It is a wise choice. The risk of the matter being sent to the Supreme Court and government being forced into a referendum was simply too great. Governments must lead from the front and show that they are unafraid.
This referendum has the potential to be a defining moment in the history of the Irish state and the biggest test yet of the government.
Ireland has been through a traumatic crisis and at each point governments have decided what is best. This time it is up to the people. Make no mistake there is an enormous risk for the government here, should this referendum fail then the government will be in serious trouble and a complete rethink of Ireland's plans and interaction with the EU will be required.
The prize for success is just as big.
Should the Irish people back the fiscal compact then all talk of default, no cuts, easy ways out and walking away from the EU will be put to bed. The government can carry on with its long term plan with a mandate of even greater strength than the general election.
While we would all hope for a rational debate it is highly unlikely that we will get one. Scaremongering will be used by Yes and No sides in an attempt to sway us. The Irish people need to stop and make an informed choice however as the result of this referendum could have enormous repercussions be the answer yes or no. One thing is for sure, there is no option that will mean the status quo remains.
The government would be well advised to play the campaign with genuine strength and take a real risk. They must state clearly that they will heed the answer; people must not think that it can be re-run or renegotiated. The deal is on offer and we must decide to take it or else chart an entirely different course.
As a result, a no vote could mean an immediate general election, with parties stating clearly what they will do about the situation afterwards.
The important thing is that whatever way the people vote no, the time for blaming governments and politicians for bad decisions or acting against our interests is over.
We must have our say.
It is up to the people and we must be willing to live with the repercussions of our choice and accept whatever the result brings. That’s democracy. There is no one to lay blame on for what happens after this, it is in our hands ow. We can choose to continue on the path we are one, or we can choose to say stop and face whatever that may bring.
Either way the importance of the referendum could not be over-estimated, or the impact it will have on government and politics in the months ahead.