I welcome this debate — it is good to reflect after the vote. Often, we have many debates leading up to the treaty but we do not take stock afterwards. Like the two previous speakers, I am delighted to be able to say today that we got the result Ireland needed in this referendum. The stability treaty received a resounding "Yes" vote. Many people are asking what comes next. As we said throughout the campaign, the stability treaty is not the solution to all our ills or all the economic problems of the EU, but it is a significant piece of that solution. Stability cannot be under-estimated. A group of people told me that Chinese investors are showing a major interest in Europe but are nervous of the eurozone. The sale of renewable assets worth €100 million was proposed recently in Italy. Analysts and financiers were recommending it. The due diligence was done. The Chinese board that wanted to buy the assets ultimately decided to hold off on the purchase. They decided now is not the time because Europe is not in a safe place. This is why stability is important and why it was irresponsible of the "No" campaign to try to reject it. We cannot begin to grow until we have economic and political stability. That is a critical piece in the jigsaw.
Now that we have accepted the treaty, we will continue to take further steps to resolve the crisis in co-operation with our EU partners. Many possible solutions and proposals have already been tabled since the referendum. At the last informal EU summit, the President of the European Council, Mr. Van Rompuy, was tasked with preparing a new growth plan. That summit took place a few days before the referendum on the treaty. The new President of France, Mr. Hollande, managed to get eurobonds on the table for discussion, which was a large step towards finding a solution. I believe that in the near future, eurobonds will come into existence to deal with Europe's debt problems. To be fair to the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach, they have been pursuing a growth narrative for some time. It cannot all be about fiscal rectitude. The election of Mr. Hollande was needed for that approach to become part of the dialogue. Matters are heightened during election campaigns.
Brussels has asserted that banks should pay for banks. I was glad to hear that. Under the proposal from the Commission, banks will be obliged to draw up recovery plans that will kick into place if their finances deteriorate. It is proposed that national authorities will be able to appoint special managers to oversee weak institutions. For many people who are suffering during this economic crisis, the most serious proposal is that senior bondholders should be made liable for the costs of bailing out a lender. Many of us might think this is a late development, but it is definitely a positive one. It is obvious that this has yet to go through the legislative process. We have also heard about the possibility of a banking union. We have to realise that Ireland is a member of a union. We have a common currency, so why should we not have a common banking union? This is not about our national sovereignty or our identity as a nation. Ireland is an island nation on the west coast of Europe. We have bought into the euro. I do not suggest it is not flawed. I think the way it was set up at the outset was flawed. We are now trying to correct many of those problems. That was one of the reasons for the introduction of the stability treaty.
There is a great deal of merit in examining the possibility of a banking union across Europe. If a bank in Philadelphia goes down, it is not the people of the state of Pennsylvania who have to rescue the bank — it is the people of the United States. If that type of process had been in place here, the Irish people would not have had to bail out Anglo Irish Bank. It would have been done by the people of the EU as a whole. One might argue that would have caused things to move on to another country and another bank. I do not think that is necessarily the case. If that type of cross-border responsibility existed, we would have far stricter banking regulation. This country is in this mess because there was light regulation and no regulation. We were too small. It was such a cosy cartel. There was an inner circle. They were not doing their job. We know that story. There is a great deal of merit in having regulation that does not destabilise the entire economy of Europe, which is what we are seeing now with banks in Ireland and across Europe.
The President of the European Commission, Mr. Barroso, has proposed that there should be further and deeper political and economic union. Regardless of whether we agree with the deepening of the union, at least we are still at the table as a consequence of our "Yes" vote. That puts us in a position to influence the economic decisions made in the eurozone and allows us to choose to participate in these and other developments. I would like to see a deal on bank debt. I hope the Commission will make proposals to further that cause. I would like such a deal to be retrospective so that Ireland's bank debt could be eased. If the Commission proposes that banks should pay for banks — if banks are responsible for banks — our bargaining hand will be strengthened. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, knows the Irish people are not suckers. I know it. We all know it. We also know that a deal on bank debt will have to be reached at some stage. We will need to show patience as we wait for the right moment. Perhaps we will not have our strongest negotiating hand as long as we are still in our current programme. In the last few days, the president of the European Central Bank, Mr. Draghi, has said that Ireland is almost ready to return to the bond markets. When that happens, we will be more independent again. Perhaps that will also allow us to be stronger on the whole promissory note bank debt deal.
I would like to speak about the High Court case that was taken by Deputy Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin against the Referendum Commission and the question of whether it constituted an abuse of the judicial system for political gain. The cost to the taxpayer of the case is approaching €200,000. In my view, this is an abuse. The case was brought against the commission late in the campaign. It was close to the date of the referendum. It seems obvious that the case was a political stunt. If the High Court had found against the Referendum Commission, it would not have changed the fact that a "Yes" vote was still best for Ireland. Obviously, it would not have had any bearing on what the treaty actually means for us. There may not have been sufficient time between the High Court ruling and the date of the referendum to clarify the issue to the Irish people. In essence, it would have caused massive confusion. Little or no time would have remained to explain the issues involved. Clearly, the case was taken in order to increase doubt and confusion.
I recognise that it is difficult to speak about this issue without slipping back into the debates we had during the campaign. Issues concerning the campaign itself must be addressed. There was a negative aspect to this referendum, which was characterised by people being against the treaty as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Government. This may have been represented more strongly in this referendum campaign than in others. It is a very dangerous way to think about whether to approve an international treaty, especially one with such serious consequences for the economic future of our country. Treaties like the stability treaty should be examined on their own merits.
I accept that those on the "No" side had every right to campaign for the defeat of this referendum. As they are not part of the Government, however, they would not have been responsible for dealing with the catastrophic uncertainty that would have stemmed from a "No" vote. That fear would have continued for 18 months until we found out whether we could fund ourselves into the future. They offered no real alternative way forward. They advocated the rejection of a treaty that represents a real step forward for Ireland and offers us a safety net should we need it. They wanted to reject it out of hand. The Irish electorate needs to consider who would be responsible for the outcome of such a vote. When one proposes that the people should vote in a certain way, one should be willing to take responsibility for ensuring the outcome of the vote is put in place. The "Yes" side had all of the responsibility in this case.