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As Ireland votes on EU treaty, many ask if it's worth cost of membership (+video)

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Ben Tonra, professor of international relations at University College Dublin, says he is a committed pro-European, but a "yes" vote can be made through gritted teeth at best. "I think it's a bad treaty in terms of politics and in terms of economics, but it's the only way," he says.

The German-led plan does not need Irish endorsement. As a so-called "intergovernmental treaty," only 12 of the 17 nations that use the euro currency must sign for it to pass into law. But a "no" from Ireland would be a slap in the face to Europe and, the government claims, would lock Ireland out of any future bailout funding.

The Irish government says the treaty will create certainty in the markets, allowing investment to flow back into Ireland. Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said a "yes" vote would spur recovery by "send[ing] out the message that Ireland is on the road to recovery, that we are a place of economic and budgetary stability."

Despite efforts at recovery, endless bad news 

Once the golden boy of Europe, Ireland's then-rapidly growing economy earned it the nickname of "Celtic Tiger."

But the economy crashed in 2008. Ireland responded with the textbook austerity prescription: tax hikes and savage cuts in public spending, all made with the promise that things would get better. But for many Irish, they haven't, fueling concerns that a longterm slump has set in. 

Exports are booming, both in foreign direct investment sectors such as software and pharmaceuticals and in the native agricultural food industry, but the domestic economy has flat-lined. Real estate prices have dropped by 70 percent since the height of the boom in 2007 and unemployment is at 14.3 percent, up 0.1 percent since this time last year. In 2007, it was just 4.6 percent.

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