Sometimes we have to make difficult choices and today, according to our lamp posts, we have the choice of two possible answers Yes or No. Straight forward, right? So, what is the question again?
Basically the question is, do you agree with a financial treaty that is already agreed by 25 EU states in January this year, (of whom were able to ratify it by a vote in their parliaments—all except Ireland, where our Constitution requires us to have a referendum) to prevent EU countries from blowing their budget and bogging themselves in debt, pretty much what you would teach your children. Of course, children being children rarely stick to the rules. They need discipline just like our governments, apparently. Now big Daddy European Commission is going to supervise and any country that doesn’t adhere to the rules will be banished to their room or in this case to European Court of Justice.
The reality is aspirational. My kids are never in the room more than five minutes until I start feeling sorry for them. So other programmes have to be implemented to bring them steadily into compliance to enable them to grow into responsible law abiding adults because at the end of the day they could end up running the country and we don’t want our children running the country into the ground just like our government has over the past few decades.
But back to the question that our politicians have managed to boil down to two words Stability or Austerity. The Stability or Yes camp is an optimistic lot. They claim a Yes vote will create conditions for economic growth and recovery to our country and stability to the euro zone. It will also allow Ireland to access euro zone’s future permanent bailout fund, the ESM, in case it is ever needed again.
The Austerity Treaty or No camp is much less the bright side. They postulate fire and brimstone for Ireland if we agreed to this treaty including long dole queues and severe budget policies for years to come. The No camp claims that government belt-tightening is not going to go away any time soon. The Yes camp believe voting no is not going to make that situation any better.
The thing is, the rotten deal we got that transferred billions in private bank debt into sovereign debt, weighing heavily on the Irish taxpayer’s shoulder, has nothing to do with this Fiscal Compact. We are tethered to the terms of the EU-IMF bailout which are more demanding than this Stability or Austerity treaty so any amount of ratifying and implementing will not make a blind bit of difference to us in the short term. In the long term, we have a European Daddy now so we have to be good children and follow their rules. Furthermore, unlike other treaty referendum times, Ireland has no veto – the fiscal pact needs only 12 member states to sign up to it to become operational.
The lamp posts of Ireland may very well give you a choice of answers, a Hobson’s choice by the look of it, but the problem is the lamp posts fails to clarify the loaded question.
“Pick one,” my mum used to say when she was holding out a brown bag full of delicious, fruity smelling, mouth watering treats. Oh, it was such a hard choice but when you are peering into a can of worms under a dodgy lamp post it’s even harder.
But we have to make a choice nonetheless, and today there doesn’t appear to be an easy choice or a bright side for Ireland unless the lamp post you are standing under is switched on and used for the purpose intended.