Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Push for debt deal after Republic supports EU fiscal treaty

The Irish Government is to push European leaders to slash the cost of its crippling bank bailout after it secured resounding support for the fiscal treaty.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he raised the issue of the multibillion rescue in several phone calls with EU chiefs, including Germany's Angela Merkel, once the referendum result was confirmed.

After securing a confident 60% majority in the popular vote Mr Kenny said the bailout for bust banks - more than 46 billion euro (£37 billion) - must now be included in wider efforts to kick start the European economy.

"Ireland's banking debt must form part of that solution," he said.

One of his junior ministers, Brian Hayes, insisted the focus was on the 34 billion euro plus (£27 billion) burden left behind by rogue lender Anglo-Irish Bank.

Five of Ireland's 43 constituencies rejected the treaty plan for tighter budgetary control from Brussels including both electoral regions of Donegal and three others in Dublin, one of which is home to two senior government figures, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and Mr Hayes.

Sinn Fein claimed some credit for forcing a strong No vote but failed to secure a success in party president Gerry Adams' backyard of Co Louth.

And the splits in support around the country were widely seen as highlighting a growing class divide with many of the more affluent areas showing strong backing for the treaty while traditionally working class areas of Dublin and Cork came out against the pact.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Ireland's deputy prime minister and Labour leader who has seen support for the party diminish in opinion polls this year, also backed the Taoiseach's call for a debt deal.

"This was not just an exercise - asking people to vote Yes - it was also an occasion where we listened to what people where saying," he said.

The Tanaiste, whose Dun Laoghaire constituency south of Dublin saw the second highest support for the treaty, added: "We do need to have a deal in relation to our bank debt. We do need to see progress upon it."

The first opportunity for the treaty success and the potential for a growth pact to be discussed will be later this month at an informal European summit.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso praised the successful passage of the treaty referendum.

"Ireland has established a strong track record in implementing its EU/IMF financial programme. Today's vote represents a significant step towards Ireland's economic recovery and its place at the heart of the EU," he said.

Declan Ganley, founder of the Libertas group which successfully campaigned against the Lisbon treaty in 2008, claimed many Yes voters did so through gritted teeth.

"It's going to be a long hot summer in European markets, and a lot is going to happen," said Mr Ganley.

His assessment was also supported by the director of elections for the Fine Gael party, Simon Coveney.

Mr Kenny said he raised the banking crisis directly with the German Chancellor and he also discussed it with French president Francois Hollande, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, Mr Barroso and president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy.

He said the Yes vote gives the Government the power to negotiate more strongly on the issue of bank debt.

"This is an issue which I regard as Ireland having sent a message that we understand is a problem," he said.

"Ireland will participate very strongly in this debate as this is the only country that has actually had a direct result through the ballot box."

The final figures from the referendum count showed a total of 955,091 votes in favour of the referendum compared with 629,088 against the agreement.

It was the fifth time since 2000 that Irish voters have been asked to accept European reforms in a popular vote - twice they rejected the plans forcing a referendum re-run.

Ireland was the only country in Europe holding a referendum as it is obliged to put major EU reforms to the public test, according to the Constitution.

The treaty will come into effect with the support of 12 states, which now looks certain, with ratification already complete in three countries and under way in another six.

Twenty five of the 27 European Union states have accepted the text of the treaty, with the exception of the UK and Czech Republic.

The objective of the treaty is also to keep a control on deficits and ensure greater checks and balances are in place for money in and out of each country.

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