Ireland should delay ratifying treaty, says Begg

The Government should delay ratification of the fiscal treaty to allow the EU time to agree on new growth measures, the country’s most senior union leader has said.

David Begg said the Coalition needed to stand “four-square behind” French president-elect François Hollande in his bid to shift the EU’s focus from austerity to growth.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary said that, while the referendum could proceed on May 31, the Government should delay formal ratification if there is a yes vote.

If the public votes to approve the treaty, the bill outlining the proposed amendment to the Constitution will go to the President for signature, at which point it will become law.

However, Mr Begg said that, following the French and Greek election results, “the tectonic plates have shifted” in Europe, and argued it would be wiser to delay ratification.

“If they feel unable, for whatever reason, to defer the referendum then I suggest they consider giving people an assurance that they will not ratify the treaty until they have to, at the end of this year,” he said.

“In the meantime, they should stand four-square behind Hollande and assist him in every way possible to achieve his stated objective of a growth strategy.”

Such a course of action by the Government “could give us some influence on our destiny rather than being passive objects of experimentation by neo-liberal ideologues”.

He said the election of Mr Hollande had broken the “group think” that had gripped the EU in recent years and it now faced a stark choice: Persist with a policy of dogmatic austerity that would “bring the house down”, or implement a European form of “New Deal” in the shape of a “massive” economic stimulus plan.

ICTU is not taking an active stance on the treaty such is the level of doubt within the movement about its worth.

Mr Begg himself recently said it was a matter of record that he was against the treaty, but there were serious consequences if Ireland voted no. “We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t.”

Germany has delayed ratification until later next month, by which time Mr Hollande will have held his first collective meeting with EU leaders and the nature of his plans — and the level of support for them — will have become clearer.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday reiterated that Ireland would proceed with the referendum as planned.

He said investors and potential investors in Ireland wanted “certainty” and “decisiveness” and said a yes vote would give them that “clear horizon”.

“The sooner we are in a position to give a clear signal about our own future, the sooner we are in a position to have continued certainty of investment coming into the country.”

Union wants yes vote

The Communications Workers Union has become one of the few trade unions to advise its members to vote yes in the May 31 fiscal treaty referendum.

Speaking at the CWU biennial conference, general secretary Steve Fitzpatrick said: “The cumulative impact of successive austerity budgets on ordinary working families, compounded by the irresponsible and opportunistic actions of some of our leading business brands towards their workers, has confused the serious issues at stake in this treaty.

“However, following careful consideration of the issues by our conference this morning, including a presentation from David Begg, Conference has decided to back a yes vote on May 31.”

He said passing the referendum was particularly crucial for the communications and technology sector where so many jobs were effectively supported by investment by major international brands.

“Also, the economic recovery will require further investment in our communications infrastructure and networks,” he said.


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