The Irish face a referendum this week on the new EU fiscal treaty. Yet another EU referendum in an Ireland now under-the-gun of austerity.
The signs are that the voters will give the edge to the German-centric austerity juggernaut, in part because the political elite has been scaring people into backing the treaty. It appears to be working. In the eyes of many the downside of voting for the EU treaty is offset by fears of what might happen if they don't. It has to do with money of course - hopes that more funds will come available in the future in addition to hopes of off-setting the costs of bailing out the banks to the tune of billions - a move that increased the burden on the taxpayer.
The Irish taxpayer has had to watch as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (formerly Anglo Irish Bank) paid out 1.25 billion euros to unsecured creditors. All of this while the government cried poverty when it came to funding basic social services in Ireland.
The present Irish government rose to power with promises that it would impose losses on bondholders in Irish banks but caved to pressure from the European Central Bank. Deputy leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, expressed the disgust felt by many when she described the pay-out as "irrational and indefensible." She added “We take the view that those who take a gamble take a loss when their investments go south.”
Sinn Féin's strong opposition to the current EU fiscal treaty has seen the party get a boost in the polls. Sinn Féin is currently polling at 24% with leader Gerry Adams showing an 8-point increase in his rating - making him the most popular leader in Ireland.
Gerry Adams getting out the word in Dublin
Writing in journal.ie, Adams issued a timely note of warning that the Irish voter would do well to take under notice:
The Treaty... seeks to give significant new powers over to the European Commission and European Court of Justice to police and enforce these failed austerity policies. If passed it will further undermine our economic sovereignty.
The European Commission will get new powers to impose detailed budgetary and fiscal prescriptions on member states deemed to be in breach of the rules. This will mean they will be able to do in the future and in perpetuity exactly what the Troika is doing today.
The Treaty also gives the European Court of Justice the power to impose fines of up to €160 million on member states deemed to be in breach of its rules.
Knowing that they would have a difficulty selling this Treaty on its own merits, the Yes campaign has been dominated by negative messages. Fine Gael and Labour are trying to bully and scare people into supporting a bad Treaty.
Neo-liberal financial policies that have taken Europe to the brink aren't working. Austerity measures have negatively impacted wage-earners, pensioners and the unemployed while sparing the wealthy, banks and corporations. Even though the winds of change are blowing in Europe, changing the current order will be no easy task, especially when fears for the future drive people to vote against their own best long-term democratic interests.
Gerry Adams gives his views on Sinn Féin TV: