Belfast Telegraph

Republic names date for referendum on new eurozone rules

By Lynsey Telford

Ireland's voters will be asked to support strict new European fiscal rules in a referendum on May 31, it has been confirmed.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore announced the date after it was agreed by government ministers at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

"The government will put in place a comprehensive campaign to ensure that voters are informed about the context of the treaty," he said. "That in turn will facilitate a true debate."

The public will have their say on whether Ireland ratifies the European fiscal treaty, which provides access to future bailout funds and imposes stricter rules and guidelines on budgetary measures. Taoiseach Enda Kenny was absent from the meeting as he is still on a trade mission in China.

The Irish government has argued that agreeing to the treaty is in the country's best interest and warned that rejecting it could result in Ireland being cast adrift from Europe and cut off from emergency funds should it require them in the future.

But opposition TDs have claimed it will result in a further loss of sovereignty for Ireland and the country will have its future unfairly determined by some of Europe's most influential states, France and Germany.

A total of 25 of the 27 European Union states agreed to the treaty, which is designed to prevent a repeat of the Greek debt crisis and contagion to neighbouring EU countries, in a bid to avoid the potential collapse of the euro.

While harsh rules and penalties will apply to members who fail to reach standards set by the compact, its aim is to restore financial harmony to the eurozone.

The UK and Czech Republic refused to sign up and Prime Minister David Cameron warned he would take action if it threatens UK interests. Legislation will also be approved allowing the referendum to take place in Ireland.