Angry and worried, Ireland votes on the European Stability Pact

31 May 2012

Angry and worried, Ireland votes on the European Stability Pact

Thursday saw the referendum in Ireland on the European Growth and Stability Pact. As the only country in the Eurozone whose citizens are allowed to participate in the decision via referendum, Ireland promises an exciting fight. SP National Secretary Hans van Heijningen and Senator Arjan Vliegenthart were in Dublin to lend their support to the ‘no’ campaign. 'The Irish are not the only people who have major concerns about where the European project is going,’ says Vliegenthart. ‘Throughout Europe the public is becoming increasingly critical of a policy that appears to give more importance to financial markets than it does to people. It’s good to see that parties are able to join each other in the struggle for a more social Europe.’

The Irish ‘no’ campaign consists of a range of left political parties as well as a number of trade unions and social organisations. Eoin Ó Broin, campaign leader for Sinn Fein, explains that the Irish people are pulled this way and that between two sets of feelings. ‘They are angry with the established political parties who have given far too much space to the banks. Because of this they feel that we in Ireland have fallen into difficulties and we should have to pay. On the other hand there’s a great deal of concern about this country’s future. A lot of young people are leaving because there’s no work. The ‘yes’ campaign says that we’ll be lost without this treaty because investments and jobs will disappear and financial institutions and banks will turn their backs on Ireland. Fear-mongering, which we have to fight against.’

Van Heijningen and Vliegenthart noticed during their visit that support for European cooperation is widespread in Ireland. Almost nobody wants to leave either the European Union or the euro, yet there is huge disquiet over current EU policies. According to Irish Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, lots of people have had enough of the austerity policies. 'In contrast to Greece, for example, people here aren’t about to take to the streets. But things are bubbling up below the surface, although many people are turning their backs on politics.'

Ireland has a long tradition when it comes to holding referenda on European treaties, as the Irish Constitution states that any treaty which changes the country’s constitution must be put to a popular vote. In the recent past the Irish voted against the Lisbon Treaty, which was then put to a second vote, with slight amendments, and carried.

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