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Julien Behal/PA Wire

Gilmore confirms Irish push for ‘flexibility’ in fiscal compact deal

Eamon Gilmore says Ireland DID look for the new ‘debt brake’ to be ‘preferably’ constitutional, but so did other countries.

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has acknowledged that Ireland did actively seek to have the new eurozone ‘fiscal compact’ treaty amended to minimise the need for a Constitutional referendum.

The final text of the deal – which introduces a ‘debt brake’ procedure, limiting each country’s budget deficit – allows this mechanism be adopted by ‘preferably Constitutional’ means.

That contrasts with the original version of that text, agreed by 26 EU member states in December, which required the debt brake to be introduced at “constitutional or equivalent level” – which would have automatically triggered a referendum in Ireland.

In response to a parliamentary question tabled by independent Stephen Donnelly, Gilmore confirmed that the inclusion of the crucial ‘preferably’ had been sought by Ireland in order to offer “flexibility”.

“We made it clear that, unlike many other participating countries, we do not have a tier of law between statute law and the Constitution”, Gilmore said, continuing: “and we do not generally include detailed provisions in the Constitution”.

Gilmore said, however, that other countries had expressed similar concerns – and that Ireland was not fighting alone:

A number of other countries joined with us in seeking this degree of flexibility, given their respective domestic legal circumstances. To meet those concerns, it was agreed to include the word ‘preferably’ ahead of ‘Constitutional’ in Article 3.2.

The Tánaiste said that accommodating legal differences in similar ways had “always been a feature in the conduct of European business, and the final text is a balanced one that Ireland can accept”.

Donnelly’s questions came after newspaper reports last week claimed the treaty was deliberately worded to minimise the need for a referendum in Ireland, which is seen as one of the largest political obstacles ahead of the fiscal compact deal.

The treaty is currently being examined by the attorney general, Máire Whelan, who will advise the government on whether the treaty complies with the Irish constitution –  or whether a referendum will be needed in order for Ireland to ratify it.

Read: Fianna Fáil likely to back ‘Yes’ vote in any EU referendum – Martin

More: Taoiseach: Bailout funds are not dependent on fiscal compact

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