Referendum 'important step' on debt issue - Gilmore

Ratification of the fiscal treaty referendum was an "important step" in the move to address bank debt, but was not the only step…

Ratification of the fiscal treaty referendum was an "important step" in the move to address bank debt, but was not the only step, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told German chancellor Angela Merkel at the weekend he wants a deal on the Irish bank debt following the decision of the Irish people to vote Yes to the fiscal treaty.

Mr Gilmore today said the objective was now to win political support across Europe for what the Government was trying to achieve.

"What matters at the end of the day is that we get a deal which is in the best interests of the Irish taxpayer and we are determined to do that," Mr Gilmore said.


The Tánaiste said it was unlikely there would be a conclusion in relation to the issuing of euro bonds in the near future, which was why Ireland needed to get a deal on bank debt.

He said that one of the positive elements to have emerged from the result of the referendum vote last Thursday was the drop in Irish bond yields on Friday. The Government was "determined" to get back into the financial markets by the end of 2013, he added. This would not be a "big bang", but rather a "gradual process".

Dr Merkel was one of a number of European leaders with whom the Taoiseach had a phone conversation on Friday when it became clear that the electorate had delivered a decisive Yes to the treaty.

He said later that by voting Yes the Irish people, who understood the banking situation, had sent a message that the issue had to be dealt with by the political leaders of Europe.

“Without going into technicalities, yes, I did raise directly the issue with the chancellor,” Mr Kenny said.

“She and the other leaders to whom I spoke were very pleased to see that the Irish people, in a difficult situation where waves of anti-incumbent sentiment sweeps around the world, gave a very clear and a very decisive decision here.”

The Taoiseach also discussed the outcome of the referendum and the prospects ahead with French president François Hollande, Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy in a series of telephone calls yesterday.

Dr Merkel said the referendum result was good news for Ireland and for Europe and deserved respect because of the hardship that Ireland had endured.

“The referendum result strengthens the euro zone’s joint course toward the creation of a new, lasting stability union,” she said in a statement.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said last night that the decisive Yes vote in the referendum had “significantly strengthened” the Government’s hand in the negotiations about the bank debt.

He said that talks had been going on for months through European institutions about getting a deal on the issue. Mr Gilmore also phoned a number of European political leaders yesterday as part of the drive to get a deal.

A diplomatic source in Brussels warned that the Government still had big obstacles to surmount to secure a deal to reduce the debt.

However, European officials said that the ultimate prospect of an agreement had improved a little.

“Let’s put it this way: it will certainly not weaken Ireland’s case,” said a senior source close to the euro group of finance ministers.

There was no sign, however, that Germany was willing to lift its opposition to any restructuring of the debts of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

In addition, the diplomatic source said that any push to allow the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to directly recapitalise Ireland’s banks was likely to face strong resistance.

As the result became clear there was a significant drop in the interest rate on Irish government bonds.

The outcome of the referendum showed 60.3 per cent of people voting Yes with 39.7 per cent voting No. The turnout was 50.6 per cent.

The strongest Yes vote in the country was in Dublin South where 75.8 per cent backed the treaty. The neighbouring constituencies of Dún Laoghaire and Dublin South East were the next most strongly in favour.

Just five of the 43 constituencies voted against, with the highest No vote in Donegal North East, where 55.6 per cent voted No. There was also a No vote in neighbouring Donegal South East and in three Dublin constituencies.

The treaty was supported by voters in rural constituencies and middle-class areas in urban centres, although the No vote was stronger in working-class areas.

Rain across the country on Thursday morning and afternoon did not help the turnout.

Yes 60.3%

No 39.7%

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times