Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced this week that Ireland would hold a popular referendum on a German-led fiscal treaty in May or June. The shifting sands of local Irish politics makes a No vote a real possibility.Reuters reports:
…pockets of protests [in Ireland] on emotive issues like hospital closures and job cuts for teachers have increased in size and frequency, particularly in rural Ireland, and it’s there that the main referendum battle lines will be drawn.Opponents have dubbed the fiscal compact an “austerity treaty.” Nationalist Sinn Fein, the only major party campaigning for a ‘No’ vote, has seen its popularity surge over its anti-austerity stance.
It’s easy to lose sight of Ireland and its place in the EU when all attention is now fixed on the Union’s southeastern flank, but the Irish vote can’t be taken for granted. During the last Irish referendum on an EU treaty, President Sarkozy visited the Emerald Isle to explain to the Irish where their duty lay. The Irish were not amused. No European leaders will be heading to the island this time around; it remains to be seen whether Irish voters will do as they are told.Because the fiscal treaty doesn’t come under the standard EU procedures, an Irish no vote won’t kill the treaty. It will just mean that Ireland stays outside of the treaty and can’t access the bailout mechanisms the treaty prescribes. How the euro will work when some euro countries are under the treaty and others aren’t is hard to predict; Via Meadia suspects that the zone will continue to struggle whatever the Irish do.