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Noonan: Referendum won't be held just to 'test public opinion'

The Irish government won’t hold a referendum on the EU ‘fiscal compact’ deal unless the Constitution requires one.

THE MINISTER FOR FINANCE has ruled out the prospect of Ireland holding a referendum on the proposed ‘fiscal compact’ eurozone treaty, saying Ireland had “no precedent” for holding an opinion when one was not needed.

Addressing reporters on his way into a minister of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels, Noonan said there had not been an occasion in Ireland where a referendum was run “simply to test public opinion”.

“Ireland is a parliamentary democracy,” Noonan said. “People elect a parliament to take decision.”

The minister added that Ireland would certainly hold a referendum if a constitutional amendment was required to ratify the treaty, but implied it was almost impossible to hold one otherwise.

While the Constitution does provide for a mechanism where bills “of such national importance” can be referred to the people in a referendum, that clause has never been invoked.

The mechanism – in Article 27 – requires one-third of TDs, and half of all Senators, to present a petition to the President, who then summons the Council of State and decides whether the legislation is of sufficient importance to be referred to the public.

Noonan would not be drawn on whether he felt the government could win any referendum campaign, commenting that it would be premature to discuss the matter before a final draft of the proposed treaty was published.

He added, however, that he would not “take the people for granted”.

Following today’s meeting – which is to put the finishing touches to the fiscal compact treaty – Noonan will tomorrow meet European economics commissioner Olli Rehn, to discuss the proposed substitution of the promissory notes for Anglo Irish Bank.

He will also travel to Frankfurt to meet ECB president Mario Draghi on the same topic.

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Gavan Reilly

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