To defend what’s left of our democracy, a No vote is vital

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To celebrate the CrisisJam series of articles on Politico.ie published over the last few days which discuss why we should vote no to the Fiscal Compact Treaty Referendum – or the Austerity Treaty I’m posting Andy Storey’s contribution. Thanks to Eadaoin and Andy for allowing us to put this here. To ILR articles on the Treaty Referendum click here.

Much of the treaty debate has revolved around whether Ireland could access more loans if required and whether the treaty will mean greater austerity.  These are important issues, but the even more important issue of democracy has been somewhat neglected by comparison.  Put simply, ratifying the treaty would give its provisions immunity from constitutional challenge and would make it much more difficult to change economic policy through the election of a new government. The wording of what we are being asked to vote on is as follows:

“The State may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance… No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that Treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that Treaty from having the force of law in the State.”

As UCD sociologist Seán L’Estrange puts it “the Irish Constitution is to be set aside when it comes to government activities conducted under the auspices of the fiscal treaty… the Irish citizenry [is being asked] to suspend its own Constitution and the rule of law for any and all activities issuing from ratification of the treaty.”

But it gets even worse.  If the treaty is passed the Government will introduce legislation concerning the structural deficit and other matters. What happens if a future government decides to repeal this legislation? Such a government would be in breach of the treaty and amenable to action against it (which could be initiated against it by any other government that has signed up to the treaty) in the European Court of Justice.  So we could be taken to court for the ‘crime’ of seeking to alter economic policy.

This is not an accident.  When the treaty text was agreed, Angela Merkel famously said, “The debt brakes will be binding and valid forever.  Never will you be able to change them through a parliamentary majority”.  She has elsewhere spoken of the new fiscal rules as having “eternal validity” and that “Europe would not function any more if it changed course after every election.”  This is the language of the autocrat.  To defend what is left of our democracy, a No vote is vital.

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