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The republic and the Fiscal Compact referendum

I write to you to express my distress that the referendum on the Fiscal Compact has already been hijacked by both domestic squabblers and opportunistic politicos.

We vote for a treaty in less than a month’s time which has nothing to do with our domestic bickering and petty squabbling at home, over lost money here, higher taxes there; but instead an issue of greater significance than our internal naval-gazing can allow for. We vote instead for a renewed definition of what government is and what our republic should be.

There has been much talk over the previous referendums of engaging in debate about whether our republic should appease European overlords, enact distant directives or accept rulings from the European Commission.

Some complaints and gripes have been well founded.

It is interesting to note that there are two common interpretations of a republic. The first is derived from the Roman-Latin understanding of the word itself, essentially meaning anything associated with “public affairs” (that which is public). The second, more revolutionary and modern interpretation of the word has grown from the American and French revolutions, and, contrary to an undue focus on decapitating kings per se, it concerns instead the limiting of government, in particular the spendthrift and fanciful waste of money by those seeking to gain favour through exchequer spending sprees in the run-up to elections.

Perhaps people could well judge that in the past decade of rule by the Soldiers of Destiny, our republican fate was well and truly scuppered in lurid vanity projects, ludicrous public spending and inane tax breaks for preferred sectors of society. We live with the consequences after all.

This treaty offers us a chance to break free from the nod and the wink for once and for all. It would set down a constitutional requirement for government to plan future spending on the basis of foreseen income rather than interim, short-sighted populism, based on passing, often temporary prosperity.

It would require an Irish government to avoid any future deficits, and plan its outgoings on a plateau of averaged tax intake over many years, and not just gains predicated on a fickle building boom. It would enforce this arrangement only after Ireland exits our IMF/EU programme so we have time to get our house in order. Please understand, it has nothing to do with either prosperity or austerity, two words which simple muddy the waters on this issue.

The treaty enables us as Irish people to finally limit government excess. It presents us with a solid buffer to ingrain fiscal rectitude, and to harbour safely our citizenry from the storms of fluctuating money markets, and a seeming love affair among populist and leftist politicians for borrowing. It halts the march of unwieldy government and forces Ireland’s politicians into a mould that we sorely need. In short, it realises the true republican value of protecting us from the idiocy of some of those who gain power.

I believe in limiting government, in particular its spending. We have learned sore lessons in the past three years, and I certainly can’t agree with speakers opposing the treaty who advocate a ‘tear it all down and start again’ notion of renewal.

While criticising German economic dogma as the basis for the Fiscal Compact, we ought to be very careful that the republicanism spoken about by those in Sinn Féin and the United Left Alliance doesn’t itself resemble a greener version of East Germany.

If you want reject what I understand to be republican, feel free to find your home amongst the no camp. If you wish to pursue the market economy, and create a republic of reasonable and limited government, and pursue a real organic, liberal democratic republic for the first time since independence, I advise you to vote yes.

Stephen Behan

Listowel

Co Kerry


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