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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Oireachtas TV Screengrab

As it happened: Dáil discussion on the EU fiscal treaty referendum

Just 24 hours after announcing that Ireland will hold a referendum on the treaty, the Dáil is holding discussions on the matter. We’re following each and every word. Come, join us.

WE LIVEBLOGGED ALL of today’s Dáil discussion on the announcement that Ireland will hold a referendum on the recently-agreed European Fiscal Compact Treaty.

Although Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and a spokesperson for the technical group got to make brief statements following the Taoiseach and Tánaiste’s speech Tuesday, more time was devoted to the matter today.

There were no huge surprises within the Chambers as Sinn Féin and the technical group called the treaty an “austerity pact”, while the Government parties and Fianna Fáil confirmed they would be strongly supporting a ‘yes’ vote.

The major fallout from the referendum announcement happened within Fianna Fáil ranks as Eamon Ó Cuív resigned from his senior roles at the parliamentary party. He refused to support the party’s position on the treaty.

Welcome to our liveblog – our second in as many days – on the EU fiscal treaty referendum. It’s been 24 hours since the announcement – how are you feeling about it now? Are you happy the referendum has been called? Do you know how you’re voting yet?

To get an idea of early opinion from our readers,’s poll today asks how you intend to vote in the referendum. Have your say here.

Campaigning is yet to kick off (brace yourselves for that!) and details of what question will actually be asked on the ballot paper are yet to be revealed. So, if you’re unsure of what we are actually voting on and why, Susan Ryan has compiled an explainer with all necessary details.

Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams have made their initial statements in the Dáil about this week’s pre-European Council meeting, crossing over into the topic of the ratification of the fully-titled Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.

Mick Wallace is up now for just five minutes. After yesterday’s “spat” between the members of the technical group over who should talk, they have amicably decided today to share their time between Wallace, Richard Boyd Barrett and Shane Ross.

Any interesting development within Fianna Fáil – Éamon Ó Cuív has admitted that he has not decided how he will vote and indicated that he could even break ranks and lose the party whip. More on that story here.

Richard Boyd Barrett has made it clear that he will be campaigning for a ‘No’ vote. Although he says that this will not be a ‘no’ to Europe – just a request for a different, more social Europe.

Fine Gael TD Paschal Donoghue has summed up his feelings on what is to come over the next few weeks in one succinct tweet:

We know a couple of people at HQ who have similar feelings after giving up coffee 60 (60!) days ago.

Eamon Gilmore tells the Dáil that there will be ample opportunity later today to discuss details of the treaty but in his statement he will focus on the pre-European Council meeting to be held tomorrow and Friday.

Earlier today, a reader posted the following comment as an answer to our poll on the EU treaty.

I think people are going to use this as a vote for the government, not for the treaty itself!

Do you agree?

Gilmore is giving his arguments on why the treaty should be welcomed by Ireland. The stability treaty is another part of the solution that Europe is putting in place, he says.

The rules and disciplines that it will enforce will ensure that the same mistakes that caused the economic collapse in the first place will not happen again. He says it will ensure “necessary lessons are learned”.

The treaty also shows investors and the world that we are serious about reform, says Gilmore. It will enable us to hold our partners to account – larger members will not be able to use their weight to escape the rigorous rules that it makes smaller countries adhere to.

Gilmore has also argued that the treaty provides for economic and budgetary commitments that Ireland already adheres to.

The Tánaiste again reiterates that ratification will ensure that emergency funding is available to Ireland through the ESM – even though the Government says it will not need to use it.

It is absolutely in our national interest to ratify this treaty for a more secure and sustainable future.

Gilmore is looking forward to a “full and respectful” debate and a positive outcome. He said people should not listen to anybody trying to use the debate to advance “narrow partisan interests”.

The matter is too serious, he says.

Gilmore’s concluding point:

Irish people have shown their metal – and in doing so have gained the respect and confidence of those in Europe.

Have you read the treaty? The full text is available here.

Fianna Fáil’s Seán Ó Fheargáil is up now and says the treaty is not a “shocking loss of sovereignty”.

The ECB mandate needs to be reformed to mirror something like the remit of the US Federal Bank.

He says in the eyes of the electorate, the Government has wasted time by trying to run from the people and avoid a referendum.

And we’ve eventually come to Transport Minister Leo Varadkar’s remarks that referendums could be “undemocratic”. Ó Fearghaíl said that the Government must reform its attitude to referendum.

Varadkar previously said that he was concerned that a vote on this treaty would become a vote on extraneous issues.

The Fianna Fáil whip finishes his 15-minutes by stating that the party will argue for a ‘yes’ vote.

Pádraig MacLochlainn from Sinn Féin has taken the stand for his 15 minutes. The TD half-jokes that the Government’s announcement yesterday has saved his party money because they will not need to fight the coalition in court about holding a referendum.

MacLochlainn discusses the Lisbon Treaty and how the electorate were asked to vote twice on the matter. Citing WikiLeaks, he accuses Gilmore of going into the US Embassy and telling the Ambassador that the people will be asked again after the failure of the first referendum.

MacLochlainn is warned to address the chair – and not the Tánaiste as he has been doing.

He’s ignored the warning and is still addressing Gilmore. He says that Europe’s solution of austerity is “defying economic logic”, as well as “failing catastrophically”.

Meanwhile, in Dublin about 500 people from rural Ireland have gathered for a protest against austerity.

Picture from @LauraByrneTDFM

Deputies Clare Daly, Thomas Pringle and Catherine Murphy from the technical group are sharing time – so they have just five minutes each.

Daly says that she is sure the people laughed at Lucinda Creighton’s déja-vu comments on Morning Ireland today about how a ‘no’ vote would create a “difficult and undesirable” situation for Ireland.

Daly is urging for a ‘no’ vote and, again, the treaty is called an “austerity treaty” by one of the technical group.

Paddy Power has given its latest odds on the referendum. It has cut the odds on a successful yes vote to 4/7.

The bookmaker is also taking bets on the likelihood of a second referendum on the same treaty before the end of 2013. You can take that bet at odds of 3/1.

Catherine Murphy is up now and asks where is the social Europe we joined is gone? She repeats the Attorney General’s advice that this treaty is outside the architecture of the European Union.

She then asks:

Can the government outline how the treaty will affect Ireland beyond 2015?

She has lots more to say but Murphy has to sit down to make way for Thomas Pringle. readers’ poll has been active for about six hours and so far 48 per cent (1,313 votes) have said they are against ratifying the treaty. On the other side, 34 per cent (932) say they will vote for its ratification while 17 per cent (485) do not know yet.

More on that poll here.

Pringle, an Independent TD from Donegal South West, has urged for a ‘no’ vote.

He has also asked for the Treaty for the ESM to be put to a public vote.

And that’s all for the moment folks. The Dáil has been suspended until 2.30pm when it will return for question time.

What did you think of all that? We’re now clear that Fianna Fáil wants a ‘yes’ vote, as does the Government obviously. Sinn Féin and the technical group will be strongly urging a ‘no’ vote and will probably be using a ‘yes is a vote for austerity’ campaign tagline.

Has any of this helped you make up your mind?

We’ll, of course, be back with the Dáil at 2.30pm when things should get interesting during question time.

We used the recess to grab a cuppa and a couple of ginger nut biscuits.

Some TDs used the break to jump on Twitter. Independent TD Shane Ross praises the Attorney General and challenges the Taoiseach:

Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, is taking priority questions first before statements on the fiscal compact referendum resume.

Topical issues are still being discussed in the Dáil. We’re expecting statements on the treaty to resume at 4.30pm.

In the meantime, the European Comission has insisted that a ‘no’ vote on the referendum will not affect the current bailout agreements. Ireland will still be able to access loans already guaranteed by the EU/IMF programme.

A spokesman for commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has been speaking to about the referendum. He said the EFSF will continue to exist after July and Ireland will be able to draw down funds agreed under the current bailout.

Read the whole story.

So, we’re back to statements on the treaty.

Chair of the European Union Affairs Committee Dominic Hannigan (Labour) is up first. He is sharing time with two other TDs so is speed-reading his statement.

Hannigan says there is nothing to be feared in the treaty. It is just a restatement of a commitment to ensure currency is underpinned by stable and secure governance.

The Labour TD also rejects claims that a ‘yes’ vote is a vote for more and long-term austerity.

Paschal Donohue is up now. The Fine Gael TD said he believes the fiscal compact treaty will ensure mistakes of the past are not replayed in the future.

He questions opponents of the treaty to answer the question about where Ireland will draw down funds if we don’t get back into the markets. He says that people advocating a ‘no’ vote with the attitude of “we’ll see what happens” are taking a “reckless gamble”.

You do not do that with the welfare of a nation.

Donohue adds that we will have to implement the steps outlined in the treaty anyway – and it will be easier to do so within the architecture of it, rather than outside it.

Next up is Arthur Spring from Labour:

It is incumbent on us to explain the information and ensure that misinformation is not the currency upon which people decide how to vote.

Timmy Dooley from Fianna Fáil has taken his full time to speak about the referendum. He welcomes the vote but accuses the Government of running from the people. He said there was probably huge surprise in the Government and Brussels when the Attorney General gave her advice yesterday.

Clare TD Pat Breen of Fine Gael is sharing his time with Bernard Durkan.

Breen says he welcomes the fact that both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste came to the Chamber yesterday to make the announcement. He said he felt it was the first time in a long while that the Dáil was relevant.

Bernard Durkan congratulates the Government for doing things the right way. He said €18.4 billion has been shaved of the indebtedness of Ireland in the past year.

An amazing achievement in a very short space of time.

He argues that the only attack on Ireland’s sovereignty is that we overspent. He criticises what he calls the ‘no pay brigade’.

Sinn Féin’s Deputy Jonathan O’Brien has ten minutes and again he welcomes the fact that there will be a referendum and that the announcement was made in the Chamber. He notes that it is the “right to way to do business”.

The Government must be on a learning curve, he said, but adds that the Opposition could have got more than eight minutes notice. Howlin calls back that all TDs are equal in the chamber.

News just in – Éamon Ó Cuiv has resigned from the role of Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil.

The full statement from Micheál Martin on that resignation:

This afternoon I accepted the resignation of my colleague Éamon Ó Cuív TD from the roles of Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

Éamon’s refusal to support the Parliamentary Party’s position on the Fiscal Compact meant that it was no longer feasible for him to occupy these roles.

As the Party prepares for a momentous Ard Fhéis this weekend, it is my hope that Éamon will continue to work for Fianna Fáil’s renewal as he has done over the last twelve months.  Our Party has led Ireland’s positive and constructive engagement with Europe for generations and I am determined that it continues in this proud tradition.

The internal row at Fianna Fáil over its position on the fiscal compact treaty will mean a fifth deputy leader in just 14 months, notes‘s Gav Reilly:

After that excitement, we’re back in the Chamber for Independent TD Finian McGrath’s minutes.

McGrath has many concerns about the treaty but is keeping an open mind about which side to support. He says he is concerned that the agreements currently in place with the Troika will become the ‘norm’.

Next is Mattie McGrath and he has much the same to say as the previous McGrath.

He says he is keeping an open-mind on the treaty as he weighs the situation up carefully.

He believes the people of Ireland will vote ‘yes’ if there is recognition of their plight and some right down of debt. McGrath’s a fan of the snappy one-liner:

A major carrot is needed.

We’re not the bully boys of Europe.

It is time to step up to the plate.

McGrath encourages the Taoiseach to “put on the green jersey on Friday” and go to Europe and tell them that they need to treat us fairly.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin starts his statement. He talks of the importance of an open debate and engagement with the public on the referendum.

He says the Government has taken a first step to open a national debate by calling the referendum. He then asked for an informed, calm and respectful debate.

“Nothing to fear from this treaty” seems to be the campaign line for Government parties.

The Government looks forward to the debate and he promised to be fully engaged with the public in the lead-up to the ballot.

He concludes the session by saying he hopes the people will approve the ratification of the treaty.

That completes the Dáil’s discussion on the EU fiscal compact treaty. There were no huge surprises within the Chambers today with Sinn Féin and the technical group voicing their opposition to the treaty and Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil TDs supporting its ratification.

The major news story breaking because of the referendum is the resignation of Eamon Ó Cuív from his senior roles within Fianna Fáil.

That’s us for the evening. Thanks for joining and see you soon.

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