AG to receive treaty text after Cabinet meets

The EU’s fiscal treaty holds no fears for the Government, Enda Kenny said, but the final decision on a referendum could rest with the courts.

This morning the Taoiseach will ask the Cabinet for approval of the text of the treaty and send it immediately to the Attorney General for her opinion.

Sinn Féin is demanding the compact, which will bind Ireland to strict budget rules, be put to a vote and warn that even if the Attorney General says it is not necessary, they will test that decision in the courts.

The details of the treaty were agreed by all but two EU states in Brussels, with Britain refusing to take part and the Czech Republic bowing out late on.

The Government has until the end of the year to ratify the treaty and until March 2013 to introduce a law banning the State from running budget deficits. Drafting of the ban is set to be ready by the end of April.

Ireland needs to pass this by March 2013 or it will be excluded from getting cheap money from the permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

This could derail the Government’s plan to refinance the €32 billion Anglo promissory notes with EU money and spread the repayments over decades.

The Taoiseach, buoyed by an opinion poll showing a majority would vote for the treaty, said if necessary, “there will be a referendum and the Government have absolutely no fear or concern or anxiety about that”.

Fianna Fáil said it would study the treaty before deciding whether to support it or push for a referendum.

Party leader Micheál Martin said: “The fiscal treaty is too limited to solve the crisis. It can only make a contribution if it is accompanied by other more radical steps to help fund economic growth and job creation.”

Sinn Féin’s Padraig MacLochlainn accused the Government of trying to sidestep democratic endorsement of the deal.

“They must do the right thing and hold a referendum irrespective of the legal advice from the Attorney General,” he said.

The Taoiseach was one of five leaders asked to make a presentation on the other agenda item — growth and jobs. He focused on the SME sector, seen as offering the best hope to create jobs, and told his fellow leaders of the steps the Government was taking, focusing on making funds available to companies that employ about 10 people each.

While Greece was not on the agenda, it was described as “the elephant in the room” with negotiations between the government and the private sector bondholders still not finalised.

Analysts believe that even when the private sector haircut is agreed the Greek debt will not be at levels it can afford and so the ECB, which holds €40bn of Greek bonds, and the EU fund which lent the country €110bn will take a hit.

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