An Bille um an Tríochadú Leasú ar an mBunreacht (An Conradh ar Chobhsaíocht, ar Chomhordú agus ar Rialachas san Aontas Eacnamaíoch agus Airgeadaíochta) 2012: An Dara Céim (Atógáil)
Thirtieth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union) Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed)

Atairgeadh an cheist: "Go léifear an Bille an Dara hUair anois."
Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Is maith an rud é go bhfuil an Tánaiste agus an t-Aire Stáit anseo mar go bhfuil sé fíor-thábhachtach, i gcomhthéacs an fheachtas atá os ár gcomhair amach, go mbéadh comhoibriú, de chineál nach raibh ann ariamh, idir an Lucht Oibre, Fine Gael agus Fianna Fáil i gcomhthéacs an reifrinn fhíor-thábhachtaigh seo. Ba mhaith liom a gheallúint go mbeidh Fianna Fáil ag gníomhú go fuinniúil sa bhfeachtas atá os ár gcomhair amach agus táimid ag tnúth le comhoibriú iomlán a dhéanamh leis an Lucht Oibre agus le Fine Gael sa bhfeachtas.

On behalf of Fianna Fáil I welcome the Bill before the House today. As well as supporting its passage through the House, we will be campaigning for a "Yes" vote in the forthcoming referendum. We do so as the party which brought Ireland into membership of what is now the European Union, supported the reform and development of the Union through the years and remains absolutely committed to the idea of nations working together to overcome common problems. As we said repeatedly before the Government eventually agreed to hold a referendum, if this treaty is a significant one - if it represents a significant step towards resolving the European debt crisis - then it is right that the people be consulted. Ours was the first party to call for a referendum and the only pro-EU party to do so before the Attorney General told her colleagues there was no alternative. While we are strongly supportive of this Bill, we are not uncritical of the treaty's limitations and the poor way in which it is being handled.

People are rightly suspicious of arguments for treaties which are based solely on past achievements rather than future prospects. However, understanding the need for this treaty requires an appreciation of why helping the European Union to address key failings is in our national interest. Equally, it is necessary to counteract the arguments of those who try to dismiss and demonise the Union, failing ever to acknowledge its profoundly positive record in this country. Even at this moment of deep crisis, the Union's record remains one of having enabled relative prosperity and peace that would have been impossible otherwise. No other economic, social or political model could have come close to enabling Europe to conquer the types of poverty and violence which previously defined its history. Only five years before the Coal and Steel Community was established, thus launching the European project, the Continent experienced a deep and severe subsistence crisis, with widespread grinding poverty and simmering conflict. Ours is a pro-EU party because we recognise this record of profound progress and because the Union provides the only credible context in which a small, peripheral country such as Ireland can succeed.

Many people are suffering today because of the impact of the recession. Unemployment is far too high and living standards are under pressure. However, we must remember the simple fact that both living standards and employment rates remain significantly higher than they would be if Ireland were outside the Union or the euro. Membership gives security to those seeking to invest and opportunity to those who want to export. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are in this country because of our membership of and record in the European Union. Let us not forget that the Union remains an immense force for good in areas such as equality, education and working conditions. People can summon up all of their ideological fury to condemn the Union as some elite conspiracy to do down ordinary people, but the reality is that it has done more for the people of Ireland and Europe than any left or right-wing ideology. We have not seen our people conscripted into a European army. We have not become a nuclear state. We have remained in control of key national policies. The rights of ordinary people have been dramatically strengthened. Not one credible piece of evidence has been produced to suggest that Ireland could have achieved current living standards and employment levels outside the EU. The Union's relentless opponents have spent 40 years failing to acknowledge the clear and unambiguous progress it has enabled. Until they are willing to present a more balanced picture they will continue to be more interested in promoting only their own interests. All of the evidence is that it is in Ireland's vital national interest that the Union be strong and successful. This is the core sentiment we must bear in mind in this debate.

The treaty cannot be separated from the context in which it was proposed, namely, the deepest recession experienced in Europe since the Second World War. The mounting crisis in 2008 to 2010 saw the Union completely failing to engage. It continued to seek to work within pre-crisis policies and the idea developed that the troubles being faced by individual countries were fully their own responsibility. This is the approach which led to unreasonable requirements on Ireland concerning bank debts. It also was the approach which caused the Irish and Portuguese bailouts to be required. The insistence that existing rules would remain unchanged undermined confidence and led to the situation nearly spiralling out of control last year. It is increasingly clear that the Irish bailout would not have been required had the policies in place today been there in 2009 and 2010. The ECB's support of the financial system would have directly countered the panic which forced the taking on of unreasonable levels and types of bank debt. A more secure financial system and the existence of bailout funding would have directly reduced pressures and the dramatic increases in borrowing costs. The narrative that all problems have had as their cause the failures of individual countries was deeply wrong and it is long past time for it to be corrected.

Last year's series of emergency summits and last-minute deals escalated the sense of crisis and directly damaged economic confidence. The mid-year deal for Greece, which was extended automatically to all current and potential countries accessing bailout funding, was only ever a stop-gap solution. While the Government was busy praising itself for getting a deal which it did not negotiate and was four times what it had asked for, others began to discuss longer-term measures. The Tánaiste will recall that in August, it became clear there would be flexibility on providing additional funding for support programmes but only if the legal basis for fiscal control was strengthened significantly. The process by which this treaty was developed was easily the worst for any treaty between European states in the last 50 years. It was rushed, there was a lack of proper debate and no effort was made to achieve unanimity, even though the final text is overwhelmingly based on already agreed policies. Through this process, the only stated negotiating objective of the Irish Government was for something good to come out and that treaty changes should be avoided if at all possible. As a result of this flawed process, the treaty Members are debating today is important but not nearly comprehensive or ambitious enough. It is part of the answer to Europe's crisis but nowhere near the full answer, as the Tánaiste indicated in his contribution.

This is the first time any Government has brought a proposal for a European treaty to the Dáil without first publishing a White Paper. Past White Papers have served as a definitive statement of each treaty's implications in an Irish context. While they may have been read by relatively few people - even some politicians may not have read them - they have provided an essential foundation for debate. As far as Fianna Fáil has been able to ascertain, during the five months since leaders agreed the main provisions of this treaty, the Government has neither sought nor published a single piece of analysis of its understanding of the detailed provisions of the treaty. The ridiculous situation obtains in which the Government states it has been advised that a constitutional amendment is required to ratify the treaty but has not explained the reasoning for this requirement. No detail has been provided to the Dáil or to the public as to what is perceived as so significant in this treaty that a vote is being held against the Government's clearly and repeatedly expressed earlier views. The Bill's explanatory memorandum is a one-page effort, which simply states a referendum is required for ratification but nothing else. This is a very bad start to a serious debate about a measure that is an important part of the wider agenda of restoring growth and job creation to Ireland and Europe. In effect the Government has ignored its duty under Standing Orders and precedent to provide Members of the Oireachtas with briefing sufficient to ensure a fully informed debate.

I acknowledge the ongoing and valuable hearings of the Sub-Committee of the Joint Committee on European Affairs on the Referendum on the Intergovernmental Treaty to which Members have alluded. However, given that Members are holding this debate before it has finished taking evidence or even begun drafting a report, the Government clearly is not overly concerned with paying more than lip service to its work. Thankfully, the gap left by the Government has been filled by independent experts, who have been active in providing detailed analyses of the economic and legal implications of the treaty. Their work, most of which has been published, provides a solid independent basis for considering the treaty and reaching an opinion on it. As I stated previously, Fianna Fáil's position from last year has been that any European treaty should be brought to a referendum, irrespective of whether a legal loophole to avoid a vote could be found. The effort to avoid one would have been legally risky and would cause lasting damage to pro-Europe sentiment. It would have made it close to impossible to go back to the people with the more significant changes which are desperately needed and which will come in time.

After the final text emerged, Fianna Fáil sought independent legal advice as to the exact significance of what had been agreed. Although it is a lengthy piece of advice, it can be summarised. While the treaty involves little that is new in policy terms, it does have significant implication in terms of the legal standing of fiscal rules. The treaty significantly strengthens rules which for the most part already are part of European law and ratified by this and other countries. This is, of course, its primary purpose in terms of the restoration of confidence in fiscal management within the eurozone. In terms of the form of ratification, the relationship between national and international law is not the same in every country. The only way in which the Oireachtas could safely ratify certain of the commitments in this treaty is through a constitutional amendment. This is particularly true of the requirement that the fiscal rules not be open to easy amendment within national parliaments. The fact that this is an intergovernmental treaty between EU member states rather than a full EU treaty is legally extremely significant. It clearly deprives certain elements of the treaty of the protection from challenge afforded by previous amendments. At an EU level, there remains a question as to whether the institutions can play all of the roles ascribed to them in the treaty but this is not a matter Members can discuss at this point. While the comments last December by British Prime Minister Cameron to the effect that the other member states could meet but could not use those institutions may not have been helpful, there is little doubt that someone will take a case on this issue. It has been reported that a Member of this House is to take a legal challenge to the European Stability Mechanism, ESM, treaty. Fianna Fáil does not believe this will succeed and the people of this country should earnestly hope it does not. It manifestly does not come within the terms of the Crotty judgment, as it imposes no limitations on the free exercise of the powers ascribed to different institutions by the Constitution. Instead, it provides a mechanism in which others are willing to give countries much needed funding. The willingness of governments to stretch the competencies of the Union to include providing loans to member states has been an extremely welcome development. The ESM treaty is one that Ireland should wish to ratify and see operational as soon as possible, hopefully with a much larger amount of money available to it.

Over the last 12 months, Fianna Fáil has repeatedly raised European issues in this House. Its concern has been to push for actions which are ambitious enough to tackle the crisis. Fianna Fáil's leader has set out a detailed position on the specific measures which the party believes should be promoted. Its basic position is it will support any measures which can genuinely contribute to achieving two overriding objectives, namely, saving the euro while returning the eurozone to the path of growth and stability and protecting the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. Fianna Fáil believes the future relationship between Ireland and the European Union must be fundamentally based on supporting measures to achieve these objectives and the party has assessed its position on the fiscal treaty in the context of these objectives. As for the euro, it is important to state it is under pressure but is worth saving. The positive case for Ireland is that it has directly enabled incredible growth in employment in many areas. It has aided increased exports of between 30% and 60% to different global regions. Moreover, these jobs have actually been the most secure in the recession and form part of the strongest parts of our economy. The negative case is the adjustment which would be required were Ireland to leave the euro would be much more dramatic and severe than even the tough adjustments under way at present. Ireland would face higher borrowing costs, a much worse business climate and a direct danger to employment in major parts of the economy.

In respect of democratic legitimacy, while the holding of a referendum is vital, so too is the fact that nothing is being proposed that undermines the accountability of the Union and its member states to their citizens. In fact, the co-operation and transparency provisions of the treaty enhance accountability. Fundamentally the eurozone actually is economically strong. The problem is it has failed to address three core design flaws in monetary union. First, the mandate and powers of the European Central Bank, ECB, are too narrow. Second, it needs a unified system of bank regulation and a single resolution regime. Third, it needs a more substantial fiscal union, particularly strong fiscal rules and increased funding for investment and I note this treaty delivers an important part of this third point.

Sharing a single currency directly limits each participant's ability to act by itself. Co-ordination and agreed controls are an absolutely essential part of not only a currency union but also of long-term shared growth. The fiscal rules authorised in the Maastricht treaty and finalised by the Council during Ireland's 1996 Presidency, lack all credibility. These were repeatedly flouted when it was not necessary to do so and a convincing case developed that a much stronger legal basis was required in order to regain confidence that they will be implemented. The six pack measures, which were agreed in 2010 and which are now in operation, give much greater depth and substance to the fiscal rules. They have introduced a new level of transparency and oversight, which makes the type of manipulation of debt and deficit figures practised by some countries in the past almost impossible. They have also helped restore some confidence among investors. The most pressing need is to ensure these measures cannot be undermined for short-term reasons. This is the core of the treaty. It is a reasonable and proportionate demand, particularly in light of the experience of the past decade and a half.

In respect of how the fiscal rules are presented, the Government needs to watch its tendency to over-spin and over-politicise everything. It is simply wrong to claim that Ireland would have avoided a profound recession if these rules had been in place. The details of the Government parties' economic analyses and projections in 2002 and 2007 show that they believed Ireland had a strong structural surplus and a secure growth rate of 5% per annum.

The main attack on the treaty is that it somehow entrenches permanent austerity here and throughout Europe. No matter how much the slogan "austerity treaty" is trotted out, it will still not be true. For this attack to be credible, we would have to see an alternative whereby there would be more money available to be spent on public services and to avoid tax increases. No such scenario has been provided. In fact, the accumulating evidence is that this treaty represents the road of the least austerity. That is a point which must be emphasised. The treaty will reduce the interest rate we are obliged to pay to borrow money in order to fund the deficit and refinance debt. If it does so to a comparatively modest rate of 1% over the medium term, this will represent a net saving to the State of over €1 billion per year.

The challenge to the opponents of the treaty is that they should put aside their sloganeering and show the people some basic respect by setting out the detail of their alternative. In other words, they should "show us the beef". From where do they propose we should borrow money and how can the reduced interest rates which will emanate from the treaty be matched elsewhere?

It is also being argued that the treaty ends the ability of the State to invest in growth. This is also not true. There are many routes to funding growth available. The only thing that is ruled out is the use of a structural deficit to do so other than in times of deep recession. The latter is no more than common sense. Is there anyone who can credibly claim that Ireland needs the power to run unsustainable levels of borrowing during good times? That is effectively all that is being prohibited in the treaty.

The treaty will have one specific and immediate benefit in that ratification will qualify Ireland for future access to the European Stability Mechanism, ESM. In the absence of a central bank which acts as the lender of last resort, the ESM is now the essential enabler of market access at affordable interest rates. The ESM is the most important development of the past year and a half and its absence in the early stages of the crisis caused real difficulties. Opponents have been stating that this is effectively a blackmail clause. In reality, what it involves is a demand that countries respect common rules if they want access to common funds. It would be at best arrogant for any country to turn to the rest of Europe and say "We want your money but we will set our own rules". We believe the official German position on treaty changes is too rigid and is causing significant damage. However, the demand that the fiscal treaty be ratified before accessing ESM funding is perfectly reasonable and proportionate.

The treaty includes a number of provisions relating to the co-ordination of policy and greater oversight. Few of these are novel and all are reasonable. They in no way challenge the basic construction of powers between states and the Union. There is a serious issue with regard to the manner in which the special council for eurozone leaders has been developing. Its dynamic is poor and its agenda is far too selective. The failure of countries such as Ireland to speak out against the highly destructive and insulting behaviour of some leaders is a very bad start to what will now be a regular series of intergovernmental meetings.

After December's summit, the Taoiseach announced that there had been no discussion of corporate tax issues even though the communiqué explicitly stated that it had been agreed to proceed to harmonisation through enhanced co-operation. Others have begun sabre-rattling with regard to the introduction of a financial transactions tax within the eurozone. These are red-line issues in respect of which this country can never succumb and no one should be in doubt that this referendum confers no legitimacy on the harmonisation agenda.

My party will continue to support actively the ratification of the treaty. We have held our position on the treaty despite the Government's behaviour last year in the context of bringing a new level of petty political partisanship into European matters. This was most clearly shown by the failure to respect the tradition of consultation among the pro-European mainstream until the referendum became inevitable. The almost 400,000 people who voted for Fianna Fáil in the most recent general election are an essential part of the potential majority that will be required to pass the referendum. As matters stand, opinion polls show that over 75% of Fianna Fáil voters are in favour of the treaty. That is a level of support which is far higher than that which exists among Labour voters.

We will campaign on a positive message which emphasises the importance of the treaty as part of a wider agenda. We will continue to push actively for Ireland to be more active in calling for vital measures such as the fundamental reform of the mandate and policies of the ECB. At a time of great difficulty, we believe the people of Ireland and Europe are dissatisfied with the timidity and failures of Europe's leaders but that the Union remains a focus of their hopes for the future. They understand that a return to growth and job creation requires a central role for a more active and powerful European Union and this is what lies behind the high levels of support currently being seen in the opinion polls. Regardless of how the Tánaiste tries to spins matters, it is obvious that the campaign is being rushed because of these polls. This may not affect the outcome - hopefully that will prove to be the case - but it undeniably increases the risks involved. It goes directly against the recommendations of researchers and the Referendum Commission and breaks another promise of the Government, namely, that more time would be provided in respect of preparation for the holding of referenda.

The date that has been chosen for the referendum also gives rise to a substantial risk that the future of the treaty will be in doubt as a result of developments elsewhere. The Tánaiste is wrong when he says there is a growth agenda which can satisfy Francois Hollande's demands. We know where the latter stands in the opinion polls in his country at present. Mr. Hollande has clearly stated he will not ratify the treaty until growth issues, such as the ECB mandate, are addressed. His election to power - if it happens - may not overturn our vote but it would introduce unnecessary risk.

The treaty cannot be the end of reforms to address the economic crisis. It must be a starting point, a foundation for forcing more important measures onto the agenda. It is a necessary and reasonable mechanism which will reduce the costs of borrowing to fund public services in this State. It is not a major innovation but is rather a confidence-building measure at a time when such confidence is urgently required. My party strongly supports the Bill before the House, particularly because it will enable a referendum to be held. We will be campaigning for a "Yes" vote, based on positive arguments and a belief that working with a stronger Europe is the best route back to growth and job creation.

The next speaker is Deputy McDonald and I understand she is sharing time.

I am sharing time with Deputy Tóibín. If he is watching proceedings on the monitor in his office, I urge him to come to the Chamber tout de suite.

It is important to state at the outset that Ireland is a member of the European Union. More than that, Ireland is an ancient European nation, and we must be very clear in debating this treaty - like any other - and not go off on some tangent and imagine we are having some kind of existentialist crisis about who or what we are. We are Europeans and part of this project called the European Union. As a small nation we should be a dynamic and positive in the development of that political project.

It is important to say that those of us who have been critical of EU institutions, policy and treaties are not, therefore, anti-European. We have a strongly held view of what this European project must be, how it should be governed and the policy direction it must take if it is to deliver fully for citizens and what could truly be described as a project based on the fundamentals of democracy and the rule of law. I welcome that there will be a referendum on this treaty and as Government Members know, we argued very strongly for it. We did so because we believe the citizen ultimately has the fundamental right and responsibility to oversee any significant changes to the Constitution and any major shifts in respect of public policy. Our people value the right to scrutinise, consider, accept or reject propositions in respect of the governance of the EU and Ireland's place within it.

I am very disappointed that the referendum will be held on a Thursday. If I recall correctly, Members now in government railed very correctly against holding referendums on a Thursday for the simple reason that it caused a difficulty for students in particular who may wish to return home to cast a vote. I register this with a note of disappointment. It is clear that the initial intention was for the treaty to be ratified without a referendum. In February, the German Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Michael Link, let the cat out of the bag when he said that European Union negotiators were seeking to design the treaty in a way that it could get past the Attorney General and not necessitate a referendum vote. It was clear that the Labour Party and Fine Gael were working hand in glove with those negotiators to try to meet that objective but I am thankful they failed, and the Attorney General's advice was correct. A referendum would not just be democratically desirable and necessary but it would also be a legal requirement.

The people must have their say and the decision must be respected. It is necessary to say at this juncture that the re-running of referendums on the basis of voters arriving at what would was deemed the "wrong" decision by the political establishment has been a shameful attack on democratic values in the State. The attack was often spearheaded by Fianna Fáil with the full connivance and support of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. We need a commitment at this juncture that there will not be a repeat performance of that. When the people have their say in accepting or rejecting this proposition, all of us, as democrats, are duty bound to accept it.

I note that Fianna Fáil has called for comh-oibriú and extolled the merits of what Deputy Ó Fearghaíl called "pro-European" parties working together in respect of this treaty. He made this statement as if it were a novel advance but it is a matter of public record that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have always spoken with one voice not just with EU treaty changes but on the thrust, direction and dynamic of European policy. There is nothing new in that. We need an honest and robust debate and there is no room for scare tactics, auction politics or empty promises of jobs for all. We all recall the campaign for the Lisbon treaty when the slogan was "Yes for Jobs"; that has been thoroughly discredited and I hope it will not be run again in the course of this campaign.

If we take this treaty on its merits and separate it from other strands of European policy and our respective positions on them, the problem is that it is essentially a misdiagnosis of the dilemma we face. It is just wrong to say that this State is in an economic catastrophe because of runaway public spending. We are in our current dire circumstances because private banking debt became public debt.

The Deputy's party voted for that.

Danish Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt shared a platform with the Taoiseach in Davos not so long ago. At the time, the Taoiseach informed the world at large that Ireland was in difficulty because we had all gone mad borrowing. On that occasion the Danish Premier was much more insightful and she best encapsulated what had happened when she argued that we were in a position where banks were too big to fail and citizens were too small to matter. The sub-committee of the Oireachtas European affairs committee has been commended in this House and it has heard evidence from a great range of opinion, including a wide range of economists from across the spectrum, including those who would be deemed centrists, left or right in their thinking. What they all have in common is that they have said very clearly that if the treaty had been in place a number of years ago, it would not have seen off the economic catastrophe and it would not have been the panacea for the problems we now have. Even in the Chamber I have yet to hear any Government proposition extolling the value in concrete terms of this treaty, except with regard to link between the treaty and the European stability mechanism, and our capacity to access funding through that mechanism. It strikes me that it is the only concrete argument being advanced.

Has the Deputy heard of the euro?

We have called that clause linking those two issues a blackmail clause, as that is precisely what it is. The Government is inviting citizens to set in stone a set of economic policies in a binding international agreement that will, by definition, place serious restrictions on our capacity to borrow, with penalties if we fail to measure up. Not alone must we take this austerity but the Government is threatening that if we do not, access to the stability mechanism and emergency funding will be ruled out. By any definition, that is political blackmail.

We have noted in this Chamber and I will repeat that it is a matter of disgrace that whoever negotiated these matters on our behalf allowed that position to emerge. It should never have been permitted to proceed. There is a real chance that the Irish people will consider this austerity treaty and the implications of billions of euro of further cuts before saying "No, thank you." They have seen what austerity has done not just to the economy but society. In those circumstances, the Government would be very foolish and irresponsible to have agreed that as a precondition for access to emergency funding. I am pleased the Government decided to postpone bringing legislation on the European Stability Mechanism through the House until after the referendum. That was a wise decision because it does not have any option other than to seek at European level to have the blackmail clause removed. The Tánaiste may ask how this will be achieved. The Government knows the State has a veto in respect of amending Article 136 of the European treaties. As matters stand, bailouts are expressly prohibited at European level. Germany, specifically its courts and legal system, was anxious about this issue. For the European Stability Mechanism to be built on a solid legal foundation requires a change to the European treaties, specifically a change to Article 136, on which the State has a veto. As a matter of protecting the national interest and citizens, it is incumbent on the Government to make clear that neither it nor the citizens of this country will be blackmailed.

Let us have a debate and let people consider whether they wish to enshrine austerity in an international and legally binding document. Let us also be clear that it is the responsibility of the Government to separate the debate from the ability of the State, on behalf of its citizens, to access emergency funding. I do not share the view of the Fianna Fáil Party that it is fair and proportionate that we sign up to austerity in perpetuity as a quid pro quo for accessing funding. It is neither fair nor proportionate. Moreover, it is not sensible because even if the stability treaty, as the Tánaiste describes it, or austerity treaty, as I see it, had been in place, it would not have seen off the economic catastrophe in which we are immersed.

The Tánaiste stated he does not want the debate on the treaty to be about tangential issues or to be used by people to sound a note of discontent with the Government. As the leader of the Labour Party, he should note that his party has taken a confused and inconsistent position on these matters in recent times. I probably should not have to remind him that a number of Members of the European Parliament from his party correctly voted against the so-called six pack modifications to the Stability and Growth Pact on the basis that the proposed measures were economically misguided and the Irish and European economies did not need more austerity and cutbacks. They also stated that what was needed was growth. Austerity and growth do not go hand in hand. The Tánaiste is wrong to claim one can pursue an aggressive strategy of cutbacks and other austerity measures and expect economic growth. If he examines the recent past, he will see evidence that austerity damages prospects for growth and has a deep and damaging effect on the domestic economy.

Sinn Féin believes the treaty, as with much of the policy that preceded it, is bad for Ireland and the European Union-----

Sinn Féin said that about every treaty.

-----and will institutionalise endless austerity because so-called core member states, Germany and France in particular, want to impose harsh fiscal rules on a European Union economy that is already struggling desperately. One rarely hears mentioned that Ireland adhered to the rules in place prior to the crisis, unlike France and Germany which were serial breachers of the Stability and Growth Pact.

The most basic text on the European Union informs us that the raison d’être of the modern European Union is growth and employment. While this is taken as a truism, the treaty will impose greater levels of austerity on citizens for an indefinite period and require an estimated minimum of €6 billion in cuts and tax hikes in this jurisdiction post-2015. Placing these measures in an intergovernmental treaty turns interim measures into permanent rules, which is a crazy approach. The treaty will mean deeper cuts in education and health and to a raft of community services. We will see continued unjust stealth taxes increasing which will punish struggling families and the vulnerable. The Oireachtas will be undermined and even greater decision making powers in economic and fiscal policy will be handed over to unelected officials. We should have learned from economic and monetary union that a one-size-fits-all approach to monetary policy was a mistake for the European Union. Equally, any notion of a one-size-fits-all fiscal approach, particularly one that is embedded in the concept of austerity, would be a major mistake for the State and European Union and one which would have longstanding consequences.

Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Teachta Mary Lou McDonald for the overview of the austerity treaty. We are told the treaty is about being at the heart of the European Union, yet it is not an EU treaty. We are told it is about preventing the recurrence of the economic catastrophe that is engulfing the eurozone because it will enforce rules previously adhered to by countries such as Spain which now find themselves at the centre of the current economic turmoil and crisis. We are told the treaty is about confidence and stability but it continues a policy of austerity that has resulted in a double dip recession, unemployment rates of nearly 25% in Spain and youth unemployment rates of almost 50% in Greece. We are told the treaty will create jobs by continuing a policy that has resulted in an unemployment figure of 440,000 in this country and led to 76,000 people being forced to emigrate since this date last year. I hope I am not pointing out the obvious when I note that unemployment, austerity and being unable to provide food for one's children are not the ingredients of stability.

I echo Deputy McDonald in cautioning the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government against peddling lies about jobs again. The previous campaign in favour of the Lisbon treaty was built around the issue of jobs. Since then, 170,000 jobs have been lost and the 440,000 people who are unemployed have little tolerance for lies about jobs.

People have experienced the true meaning of austerity and come to understand it through job losses, the imposition of VAT increases, the universal social charge and bin, septic tank, household and water charges. Ghost estates have been joined by ghost main streets. Some 190,000 businesses went bust last year. In the past five years, 50,000 retail jobs have been lost and a further 30,000 jobs in the sector are in jeopardy. People are all too aware of what exactly the austerity treaty means. It means a treaty for unemployment, emigration and the closure of schools, hospital beds and Garda stations.

Is it also a treaty for bad weather?

People are not stupid and can join the dots between the policies being delivered by this Government, which are inherent in the treaty, and the circumstances of their lives. They are asking why this has happened. As Deputy McDonald noted, this Government and its predecessor decided to socialise a massive growth in private debt.

Sinn Féin supported that decision.

People are asking whether this approach will work. The austerity treaty will not fix the economy or solve the private debt issue. On the contrary, it will make the problem worse because the policy inherent in it has already resulted in a double dip recession in Europe. The current European recession bodes ill for the Irish economy given the Government's decision to put all its eggs in one basket, namely, exports which are highly dependent on the health of the European economy.

The fundamentals of the treaty are based on the "six pack" modifications. Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa said that the "six pack...legislative package will enforce the EU austerity programme, driving us into recession". He added that "four of the so-called six pack...are economically misguided..." and will "...kill growth, destroy jobs and derail the economic recovery". That was the position of the Labour Party six months ago. What has changed?

Article 3 of the treaty basically seeks a structural deficit target and makes it permanent and binding. It puts the nail in the coffin of Keynesian counter cyclical economic policy. Article 3 includes a provision for a new structural deficit of 0.5%, while there is also a restatement of the 3% deficit target and the debt target of 60% of GDP. There is a requirement for the states that breach these targets to return rapidly by reducing the excess portion of their debt ratio by one twentieth a year. This will inflict budget cuts for years after this Government has left office, and could mean fines of up to €155 million on this State, as has been alluded to previously. If the US had signed up to this treaty during the Great Depression, Roosevelt's New Deal would not have seen the light of day and the US would not have been lifted out of depression.

We obviously have to live within our means and levels of debt and spending are very unsustainable, but let us not rewrite history. The unsustainable debts that face this State arose through the nationalising of banking debt, which is a process continued by the Government. The Labour Party Members may wish to catcall on this issue. They may stand over their position in opposition, but in government they have delivered more money to the banks and more money to the bondholders. Some commentators have sought to liken the national economy to the household economy. The analogy is not true. No householders finding it difficult to feed, clothe or house their families will not seek a loan. People have also said that keeping budgets correct is like running a business. The reality is that most businesses go through a period of debt in order to make a profit. Householders and businesses basically need flexibility to pay down debt when the going is good and to borrow and invest when required.

This treaty is a major attack on sovereignty and if we want to see what the loss of economic sovereignty means, we have to look 100 miles north to Belfast. Many on the Government benches have raised the policy decisions of the Executive. The reality is that the Executive lacks the power to manage its economy fully and has to look to London in regard to what it can and cannot spend. It is frustrating, it is wrong, it is undemocratic and it fails the people of the North of Ireland. That is why Sinn Féin is about bringing those economic policies back to Ireland. If this Government is comfortable with the idea of becoming a provincial administrator, then it should be honest. It is not the vision of Sinn Féin, nor is it the vision of Collins, Pearse or Connolly.

Partnership within the EU should be based on independent sovereign states working for mutual benefit. Our relationship with the EU should be engaged, confident, proactive and critical when necessary. It should be intellectually independent. Our Government should unashamedly be able to put Irish interests at the heart of its engagement. Instead, we have Irish Governments that are intellectually deferential, docile and passive in the face of other member states' self interest. The culture that simply accepts what is being handed down to us is not good for Ireland and is not good for Europe. Seeking favour by being the best "yes" man in the class and failing to contribute robustly to the debate weakens the quality of that debate, which is necessary to halt the economic slide within the EU.

The EU is not the community organisation that people think we joined. Treaty by treaty, power is being centralised to the French and German core, to the democratic detriment of the periphery. Self determination and independence are at the core of Sinn Féin's policies. It was the reason we were founded in 1905 and we still struggle today for full Irish independence. I believe that self-determination and independence are central to the wishes of the vast majority of Irish people; not for some fluffy, romantic reason, but because Ireland unfree will never receive the economic prioritisation nor focus that it deserves. The economic policies, designed for the needs of the German and French economic cycle, are more often than not damaging to the Irish economic cycle.

One of the major weaknesses inherent in the single currency is the lack of a correcting mechanism to offset German and French centred monetary policy. Given that Ireland represents 1% of the EU economy, monetary policy is seldom if ever designed for Irish needs. As a result, we have a situation where we need a flexible fiscal policy to offset the dangers of that negative monetary policy. This treaty seeks to tie the hands of future governments behind their backs on fiscal policy, while the hands of monetary policy are already tied. We need investment in jobs in this State. EU banks need to be cleansed of toxic debt. Debt needs to be written down and we need a central bank in Europe that will be the lender of last resort. It is only through those processes that we will be able to re-enter the markets and reclaim our independence.

I wish to share time with Deputy Higgins and Deputy Catherine Murphy.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. The Bill gives the Dáil the power to ratify the treaty on the stability, co-ordination and governance of the European Union. I previously welcomed the decision to have a referendum on the treaty, and I think it is vitally important. The treaty, appropriately better known as the austerity treaty, contains a number of blackmail clauses and this is the way the Irish people will refer to the treaty when they decide to vote for or against it on 31 May. The treaty contains a number of provisions and it has been said they simply restate what is already there under European law. It provides for balanced budget rules to ensure that no state can run a deficit in excess of 0.5% and ensure that states must run a surplus if possible. It will also require Ireland to reduce our national debt over 20 years, which could mean €4 billion to €5 billion reductions in our national debt every year after 2015. This is to come on top of any of the austerity that the Government proposes to bring in. We will have to find this €4 billion to €5 billion. The treaty enshrines austerity for the future of Ireland and enshrines austerity for those people who have already suffered under four years of punishing austerity. The treaty contains automatic penalties, where cases can be brought to the ECJ against member states that breach these rules, which can impose fines should they be found to be in breach. This could have significant implications for us.

When Government Deputies spoke this morning about the Bill and the provisions contained in the treaty, they mentioned the three aspects of the treaty that I have just outlined. It is most telling to list some of the things they did not mention. The treaty contains a provision where if action is initiated against countries for breaching the rules, a reverse majority vote can be used by those countries to prevent the ECJ taking action. This means, in effect, that France and Germany, along with one or two smaller countries, would have the power to block the ECJ taking action against the State. This is interesting because we know that rules in the Maastricht treaty on government deficits and the Stability and Growth Pact were first breached by France and Germany in 2001. They ignored those rules and the fact that they were in breach of the treaties. I imagine that in future, the first countries to breach these new rules will probably be France and Germany because we have seen in recent years that they have the power and the might and that they are taking the power unto themselves.

They will be able to block the European Court of Justice in future from investigating their breaches of the rules.

The Government failed to mention that article 10 of the stability, co-ordination and governance, SCG, treaty, specifically references the stability mechanism to be established within the Union and the ability of countries to access the stability mechanism. This is also mentioned in the preamble to the treaty where a state which fails to ratify the stability and co-ordination treaty will be unable to access the stability mechanism when it is established under that treaty. This shows that this treaty and the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism are intrinsically linked and these treaties are complementary to each other. You cannot have one without the other. Both treaties are designed to operate in a complementary manner and are independent and each treaty acknowledges this to be the case.

The Government duly obtained the advice of the Attorney General on the SCG treaty. Having received it and having considered it at Cabinet, the Dáil was informed on 28 February that because the treaty was outside the EU architecture it would be necessary to put it to the people by way of a referendum. I respectfully agree with the tenor of the Attorney General's advice. The SCG treaty is clearly outside the ambit of Article 29.4.3o to 29.4.8o of the Constitution. Therefore, it must be assessed by reference to the provisions of the Constitution governing domestic competence and decision making, fiscal and budgetary matters and for that reason it will be put before the people.

We need to examine the European Stability Mechanism treaty as well. On 9 March I wrote to the Taoiseach outlining my concerns in regard to the linked nature of the two treaties in regard to the European Stability Mechanism and to date I have not received a response other than an automated e-mail reply acknowledging receipt of the letter. On foot of that, I lodged a plenary summons with the High Court last Friday seeking a number of remedies from the court and for it to consider a number of question in regard to this. These questions are relevant to both treaties.

Under the ESM treaty a new permanent €700 billion bailout fund, called the European Stability Mechanism, will be set up with the power to call on Ireland, at any time of that's institution's choosing, to make capital contributions of up to €11.1 billion in various forms of capital, including cash. This is equivalent to approximately one third of Government tax revenue for 2011. This figure can be increased at the sole behest of the ESM at any time in the future with no limits set in the treaty as to what may be sought from member states in the future. In effect, the ESM can direct the State to raise sovereign debt, give the money it raises to it and then it can decide where, when, whether and how it is spent. Therefore, Ireland will not be in a position to control decisions regarding the use of sovereign debt raised by it. What are the implications of this? What if a majority of voters in the May referendum on the fiscal compact treaty vote in favour of imposing permanent austerity rules on the country in order to get access to a proposed permanent eurozone loan fund only to discover that the treaty to establish the fund is possibly illegal under EU law and unconstitutional in Ireland and may never come into force?

I have asked the court to examine the legality of the amendment of Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union before any further action is taken by Government to approve that amendment. That amendment is being adopted under a so-called simplified revision procedure which I believe is legally wrong. The changes being proposed are so fundamental they should go through the ordinary revision procedure of the EU to ensure proper democratic scrutiny. They should also require the approval of the Irish people.

I have asked the court to consider whether the ESM treaty is in breach of existing EU treaty principles which have been approved by the Irish people in previous referenda and which are now therefore part of our law. In addition, I have asked the court to decide whether the State can ratify the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism without first having the approval of the people in a referendum. The Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union signed on 2 March 2012 is intertwined with the ESM treaty. Each is dependent on the other. If I am right in my belief that the ESM treaty is unlawful then there is a question over the validity of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.

I call on the Government today not to announce a date for the referendum on the treaty on stability, coordination and governance of the Union until the court can examine the legality of the amendment proposed and give its decision. I have asked the court to consider that question. I have asked the Taoiseach to respond to the summons and I have not received a response but I hope he will respond in the coming days. It is vital we do not ask the people to vote on the treaty on the proposed date of 31 May until after these questions have been decided. In effect, we are asking the people to ratify a treaty that contains provisions that may well be illegal under our Constitution and under EU law. That is a very important question that needs to be decided. I urge the Government not to announce a date to allow these questions to be considered and then, if necessary, to put these questions in total to the Irish people so they can have their say. I urge that the people should not be blackmailed in the run up to the vote on the stability, co-ordination and governance treaty by the use of the blackmail clause and the inherent threat - although the Government may not mention it during the campaign - that if we do not ratify this treaty, we will be unable to access funds in future.

The treaty on stability, coordination and government, otherwise known as the fiscal treaty, will do nothing to address the appalling effects of the current crisis in capitalism, whether that is in Ireland or throughout the European Union. On the contrary, if the further savage cuts and austerity that would inevitably follow adherence to this treaty's fiscal diktats were implemented across Europe as a whole it would result in a disastrous deepening of the economic crisis against a background where unfortunately 25 million citizens of the European Union are already unemployed. This treaty does nothing but dictate a straitjacket of austerity for the working class and the poor of Europe when what is needed is the opposite, namely, a massive public investment programme to regenerate the EU economies and create millions of jobs throughout Europe. The fiscal treaty is a treaty of despair whereas the unemployed of Europe, the working class, the poor, the pensioners, the hard put upon people of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland need hope. It is an austerity treaty and that is how we on the left will refer to it from now on.

Article 1 of the fiscal treaty sets out the EU's objectives as "sustainable growth, employment competitiveness and social cohesion". The second paragraph of the preamble to the treaty states "DESIRING to promote conditions for stronger economic growth in the European Union". The preamble states that achieving these objectives "requires the introduction of specific rules to address this need, including a balanced budget rule and an automatic mechanism to take corrective action". Article 3 as we know concretises these requirements by demanding structural deficits of 0.5% or 1% of gross domestic product, it demands rapid convergence and a correction mechanism that shall be triggered automatically and it demands that member states enshrine in national law provisions of binding force in this regard in permanent character, preferably constitutional, to be adhered to throughout the national budgetary process. That is Article 3 of the treaty. Article 4 demands an automatic reduction of general government debt by 5% per year of the amount over 6% of gross domestic product. Our contention on the left is that three of the four objectives in Article 1, sustainable growth, employment and social cohesion, far from being progressed through the fiscal measures proposed in Articles 3 and 4, will be irretrievably damaged across swathes of the European Union, with dreadful consequences for ordinary citizens if the treaty is implemented.

I draw attention to an article that appeared in yesterday's edition of The Irish Times, written by Paul Krugman, not a socialist for sure but an internationally renowned economist and professor at Princeton and Nobel laureate for economy theory. His article was headed “European leaders seem determined to ruin their economy”. He stated that what we are seeing from the leaders of the European Union is complete inflexibility.

In March, European leaders signed a fiscal pact that, in effect, locks in fiscal austerity as a response to any and all problems [...]

So it's hard to avoid a sense of despair. Rather than admit they have been wrong, European leaders seem determined to drive their economy - and their society - off a cliff.

And the whole world will pay the price.

Many other economists and commentators have made similar points. Even right wing economists in this country, like Professor McCarthy and Dr. Karl Whelan, have severely criticised this treaty as offering nothing positive with regard to bringing about recovery in the European Union.

Other commentators go on to suggest that even this being the case, because of the possibility of Ireland being locked out of the European Stability Mechanism fund, there is no choice but to vote for the treaty, vindicating the blackmail clause we have spoken about, the clause that was first explained as blackmail by my colleague and Member of the European Parliament, Paul Murphy. The diktat that member states that do not ratify the austerity treaty would not be able to access the European Stability Mechanism is outrageous blackmail, and it is disingenuous of the Tánaiste in his introduction to repeat this blackmail clause as a given reality. It is not. The Irish Government could still block the introduction of this blackmail clause. The treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism had the blackmail clause inserted in February of this year and it is shameful the Irish Government supported that very quietly at the time. Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union must be amended to give legal standing to the treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism and the Government could veto this amendment unless the blackmail clause is removed. Dáil Éireann must vote on these issues so the situation can be reversed.

The budgetary strictures in the fiscal treaty, the automatic correction mechanism and the powers given to the European Commission would mean savage cuts and further austerity in this State and across the European Union. The Department of Finance estimates that the structural budget deficit in the State could be 3.7% in 2015. That would require €5.7 billion in extra cuts that year or spread over a number of years and it would be similar with the cuts under the automatic debt reduction diktat.

Across the European Union, 18 countries out of 25 that want to ratify the fiscal compact have structural deficits greater than the targets. If the treaty were to be put in place this year, in 2013, it would mean €166 billion of cuts across the European Union. This would have devastating effects, adding to the crisis and suffering in so many countries across the EU at present. The IMF itself has related in a report how, when austerity is applied simultaneously in trading partners, its effects are enhanced hugely. This is just a treaty for the financial markets and bondholders to make sure they get back even more than their pound of flesh. It is a disaster for the real economies across Europe.

The treaty will involve further austerity cuts and tax hikes to rescue casino capitalism and allow it to continue. People who oppose austerity, therefore, must oppose this treaty. The significance of the fact that 50% of households in this country are boycotting registration for the household tax is not properly understood. That is a massive revolt, not just against this new intolerable burden of taxation but against austerity. People who oppose that, including those who were coerced into registering, see the baleful effects of austerity. If those people correctly make the link between that austerity and the further austerity measures in this treaty, they will vote against it and they will be right to do so. These commentators who say people should not vote on other measures the Government is implementing know that the household tax, the water tax and all the other taxes are involved in this further austerity. They will be and should be included in people's reasoning for how they vote and why they should vote against it.

According to its own institutions, the values and objectives of the European Union are to advance sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, provide for a highly competitive social market economy aimed at full employment, social progress and a high level of protection of the quality of the environment, and promote economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among member states. These objectives are underpinned by values such as respect for human dignity, democracy, liberty, the rule of law and equality.

This is not a European Union treaty, however, it is an intergovernmental treaty, and we have been told that was why the Attorney General stated that we require a referendum. The treaty has been generated using a different set of values from those of the European Union. I do not what the values of this intergovernmental entity are but I know they are nothing to do with democracy and solidarity. The values seem to be completely at odds with those of the European Union and undermine those shared values, which is very dangerous. The former Minister for Justice in Germany is currently challenging the treaty in the courts, saying it has crossed a line because it cedes fiscal powers to an entity, granting decision-making power to political elites rather than devolving democracy to the people of Europe.

The Bill's explanatory memorandum states that with a view to securing economic recovery and sustainable growth, the key provisions of the stability treaty relate to the strengthening of rules underpinning the Stability and Growth Pact agreed by EU member states for the euro. At face value, the document is relatively simple and a purely literal interpretation shows that several provisions will certainly achieve increased co-ordination in governance, although I am uncertain as to the level of stability it can create in the absence of debt write-down. Not all countries are starting from the same point in this regard. Some countries are starting from a very unequal position. Having considered the background to how this treaty came about and particularly the adoption of the intergovernmental approach, I believe it is about putting an insurance policy in place for the core euro states for loans provided mainly to the peripheral states. There was plenty of cheap money put about to secure a return on it and the states are now putting an insurance policy in place to guarantee that it happens.

If this treaty is passed it will have profound implications for everybody in this country, but those on low to middle incomes and those most dependent on the State will feel its impact the most. It reduces the prospect of a debt write-down and will be a stick with which to beat us. It imposes a set of rules which include financial penalties for not adhering to the formula. Essentially, it puts a gun to the head of a state that might need to borrow from the ESM because that mechanism will not be available to a state if it does not ratify the treaty. Germany, in particular, wanted these rules applied at constitutional level to ensure they were copperfastened and could not be watered down. One market analyst has said on several occasions that the markets have already dismissed this as a political sop to Germany. However, if we make the treaty part of our Constitution, all future legislation will have to be in conformity with it. One cannot adopt legislation that is repugnant to the Constitution. The Minister for Finance, therefore, will frame future budgets with this treaty as the core. The other issue is that there is no time limit on this treaty; it is open ended.

With that in mind, I wish to refer to some legal issues that concern me. I have concerns about the wording in that it elevates this intergovernmental treaty to a level equal to European treaties. These treaties have been inserted differently into the Constitution. The treaties ceded power from the State, whereby we shared our sovereignty with an entity that had a judicial and democratic elements. The current treaty contains no democratic oversight. This is particularly worrying given that the treaty seeks to impose direct financial and fiscal obligations on the State. The 1972 accession treaty had the same wording. The Maastricht treaty, which was a consolidating treaty and dealt with governance issues, also contained that wording, as did the Lisbon treaty. The Amsterdam treaty did not contain that wording. The referendum on this treaty, by using the same wording, is putting this treaty on the same level as the accession treaty to the European Union. That is incredibly dangerous. This is not a democratic entity, but an intergovernmental one. I have proposed an amendment to delete much of the proposed wording, and this will be dealt with on Friday. What would be sufficient to achieve what the Government is seeking would be to insert something on a par with what was contained in the case of the Amsterdam treaty.

I oppose the treaty and will vote against it. Nevertheless, I query why the wording in this amendment contains such an explicit clause to elevate this treaty to a level that is superior to all other sections of the Constitution. Our Constitution is meant to be harmonious but if one elevates certain treaties, how can they be harmonious when they are in conflict with each other? I believe this intergovernmental treaty is potentially in conflict with the European treaties.

Let us consider what the treaty means in practical terms. The current Government deficit is close to 10% of GDP and we must get it to 3% by 2015. The Government has decided to achieve that through a roughly two thirds to one third ratio of spending cuts to new taxation. The Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, told the Labour Party conference at the weekend that there are two tough budgets ahead. If there were only two tough budgets ahead, we would have some hope. However, if we adopt this treaty and interpret it literally, we will take away all hope because we will be in a very difficult financial bind in the medium to long term.

Over the next three or four budgets we must reduce our current budget deficit by €13 billion. If we exit the programme, we must reduce the deficit to 0.5% of GDP. One can see the implications for the country of being so constrained financially. Indeed, jobs were to be at the heart of this Government's policies, but the jobs budget was watered down to a jobs initiative because there was no capacity to invest in job creating measures in the economy. While exports obviously remain a natural means of growing the economy, and I acknowledge the efforts being made in that respect, we cannot rely on them exclusively. International markets remain weak. Spain's Finance Minister indicated a few days ago that Spain has gone back into recession. An export-led recovery, therefore, will not happen quickly and will not deliver the number of jobs we need.

While undoubtedly trade should be an important element in Ireland's return to solvency, it should not be the only element of the strategy. Currently, we are locked into a fiscal adjustment plan that strips the Government of any means of stimulating the domestic economy, and ratifying this treaty will continue that. If we are to reach the 3% deficit target and we do not have the capacity to grow the domestic economy, there will be only two options - cuts in services, which we have already seen, and new and increased taxes, which we have also seen. On the overall level of Government debt, under the terms of this treaty we will be signing up to reducing our debt to GDP ratio to below 60% by making debt service payments of one-twentieth of the excess each year. Ireland’s debt to GDP ratio will be 120% by the end of next year, so at a conservative estimate we will be obliged to pay back between €3 billion and €4.5 billion per annum for the next 20 years. There is also the prospect of incurring fines.

This treaty is primarily an insurance policy for the core euro states to ensure they are repaid what they loaned. There was a great deal of reckless lending just as there was reckless borrowing. It appears that the member states have become hostages to the money markets. They have lost sight of the purpose and vision that underpinned the European Union. There has been an absence of a common vision, an absence of leadership and an absence of a common, workable solution.

I welcome the opportunity to support this legislation on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union. The people will be asked for their view on 31 May and before that many of us will have the opportunity to engage with the electorate and explain why the treaty should or should not be adopted. It is vital to explain to people who do not have the same level of information that is available to us what the treaty is about and how it will provide a level of support for the economy and especially for the smaller, weaker countries in the euro zone.

Cuireadh an díospóireacht ar athló.
Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.