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Independent TD launches legal challenge against ESM treaty

Thomas Pringle says he wants the High Court to establish whether the European Stability Mechanism requires a referendum.

Thomas Pringle had previously led backbench calls for a referendum on the Fiscal Compact.
Thomas Pringle had previously led backbench calls for a referendum on the Fiscal Compact.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

AN INDEPENDENT TD has initiated legal proceedings seeking a High Court ruling on whether Ireland can ratify the treaty establishing the eurozone’s new permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Donegal South West TD Thomas Pringle has initiated proceedings, arguing that ratification of the ESM treaty – which is due to be brought before the Dáil in June – could mean Ireland would lose direct control over some financial affairs.

The €7o0 billion fund could require Ireland to contribute up to €11.1 billion in order to finance the bailouts of other countries – but the €700 billion figure can be raised at the prerogative of the ESM itself, with no apparent limit.

“In effect, it can direct the State to raise sovereign debt, give the money so raised to it and can then decide where, when, whether and how it is spent,” Pringle said.

“Therefore Ireland will not have the power to control decisions regarding the use of funds raised by it.”

Pringle said the possibility that the ESM treaty was unconstitutional, or would require a referendum, needed to be established before Ireland voted on the fiscal compact, where many votes would be influenced by the fact that a Yes vote is needed in order to access ESM funds.

Pringle said he was therefore asking the court to examine the legality of the ESM Treaty’s proposed amendment to existing EU treaties, saying the amendment was being adopted under the “simplified revision procedure” which he believes is “legally wrong”.

This procedure is permitted under the Lisbon Treaty, but only in cases to “internal policies and action of the Union”. Pringle said this had been breached given the significance of the structure being set up.

The independent TD, who tomorrow takes over as one of the Dáil technical group’s three ‘leaders’, is also to ask the court whether the ESM treaty was in breach of existing EU treaty principles which had been incorporated into Irish law.

It is not clear when the legal action might be heard: assuming the High Court grants leave for the treaty to be challenged, it can only intervene after the government has published the legislation and set about trying to have it adopted in the Oireachtas.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore today said that while the government intended to publish the legislation on the ESM treaty before the fiscal compact referendum is taken, it would not trying to have it approved by the Oireachtas until after the referendum.

Pringle had previously led independent calls for a referendum on the Fiscal Compact treaty, and had set about organising a petition of TDs and Senators which would have required President Higgins to consider putting the deal to a public vote.

Read: Government defeats Sinn Féin motion on bailout fund ‘blackmail clause’

More: Noonan closes door on amendments to EU bailout treaty

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