28th May 2012 Joe Higgins, TD, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland)
If you vote ‘No’ you will be exiled to Siberia! Just about the only threat the Irish people have not been menaced with over the past few weeks. Don’t be surprised if it yet emerges, as we enter the last week of the campaign around the Referendum on the Fiscal/Austerity Treaty.
It’s a matter of ‘another day, another threat’ at this stage. On Wednesday in the Dáil [Irish Parliament], the Minister for Finance read out an opinion from the National Treasury Management Agency which he said, ‘considers that a ‘No’ vote in the referendum would mean in all likelihood that it would not be possible for Ireland to reenter the bond markets at sustainable rates.’ Leaving aside the fact that a State agency is getting involved in a very partisan political debate, we note that there was no affirmation of the converse, that is that if we vote ‘Yes’, we are guaranteed access to the same markets.
Just to make sure that we didn’t miss the new alleged threat to State funding, Fianna Fail [capitalist opposition party] spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath set up the Minister to repeat the point. ‘Will the Minister clarify whether that is the advice the NTMA has given him?’ Minister: ‘I will reread my note again for the Deputy. . . .’ Deputy McGrath: ‘Does that advice concur with the Minister’s own opinion as Minister for Finance?’ The Minister: ‘It fully concurs with my opinion.’
Impressive solidarity there between the Fine Gael [main capitalist party in government] Minister for Finance and his loyal Fianna Fail opposition. Brothers in austerity and in threats! No hint here of the coruscating attack the Fianna Fail Leader, Micheal Martin, made on the Fiscal Compact when it was first announced after an EU Leaders’ Summit in December. Referring to the targets for the Structural Budget Deficit and automatic debt reduction, he said, ‘the new target figures are deeply worrying. It would appear that they will significantly undermine growth and hold back employment . . . in other words . . significant austerity on effectively a permanent basis.’
It is fortunate for the Fianna Fail leader that we have a media that is overwhelmingly campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote. Otherwise he might be called to explain why he is campaigning for a Treaty that is such a disaster and that according to him, far from ‘saving the European sovereign debt market would end up closing it down.’
These threats are a cover-up
It is no coincidence that the threats are multiplying on the government side. The kind of inflexible, institutionalised austerity enshrined in the Austerity Treaty has been shown to have caused catastrophic consequences in Greece and deep crisis in the Irish domestic economy. The threats are a desperate attempt to cover this up and to avoid having to answer detailed questions about the concrete cuts or tax increases, or combination of both, that implementation of this Treaty means from 2015 onwards.
It is a serious infringement on the right of the Irish people to vote freely and without coercion, that they are threatened on a daily basis with dire consequences if they say ‘No.’ It should be remembered that physical coercion and the threat of violence are not the only weapons of a despot. Economic threats and bullying are also often deployed.
What is happening in Germany shames the Irish government’s rush to try and force us to vote through their treaty. Today there was supposed to be a vote in the Germany parliament on the same Treaty. But German parliamentarians from the Social Democratic and Green Parties refused to give the two thirds majority needed because they are not clear on what measures are to come from Wednesday night’s meeting of EU leaders to supposedly provide growth, investment and jobs. So craven, however, is the government of Fine Gael and Labour, it would allow no such space for the Irish people to judge.
A demand for a ‘Yes’ vote is essentially inviting the Irish people to be complicit in inflicting more austerity on themselves. A ‘Yes’ result would be used by this government and any successor right wing government as an alibi for future cuts and tax increases. ‘You voted for these targets, you can’t complain now,’ might well be the line.
The possibility of an alternative to Europe wide austerity is now coming into focus. The electoral revolts in France and Greece, rising discontent in Spain, anxiety in Holland and the opposition of sections of the German working class are all features of a growing demand for an alternative. By returning a ‘No’ vote the Irish people can strengthen this continent wide demand for an end to the destructive effects of austerity enforced in the interest of the sharks in the financial markets, and go on to demand an alternative to casino capitalism which obscenely enriches a tiny minority at huge expense to the big majority.