Belfast Telegraph

No stance on treaty poll: ICTU

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has decided not to take a stance on the fiscal treaty referendum.

The executive council of the umbrella group revealed while it did not support the treaty, it warned there could be consequences if Ireland could not get access to emergency funds from Europe.

David Begg, Congress general secretary, said it was a matter of record that he was personally against the treaty but could not tell affiliated unions across the country how to vote.

"The situation we are in is that we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't," he said.

Three major trade unions have already formed a "No" bloc to the May 31 referendum, dealing the coalition Government a major blow. Unite, Mandate and the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) have already voted to tell members to vote against the fiscal treaty.

Mr Begg said the decision did not mean Congress was neutral on the treaty.

"We are very strongly exercised by the issues involved," he said. "On the one hand, we see no merit in the treaty, but, on the other hand, we are very fearful that being denied access to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) when we need it will be potentially detrimental to the country."

Instead of telling affiliated unions how to vote, Congress has published an analysis document with various questions and answers which would be circulated among its members.

Mr Begg accepted that unions wanted leadership, but maintained that, without knowing if Ireland will ever need access to the emergency funds, Congress could not tell people to vote no.

The union chief said he would have preferred to have a definite position, but democratically the executive council could not agree on a yes or no vote.

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