“Europe badly needs a success story,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told reporters in Dublin after the results were confirmed. “Ireland can be that success story.”
The referendum is being seen as a test of the will in Europe to surrender some national rights in the name of binding the economies of the euro zone more closely together. Nations linked by the new treaty would need to advise E.U. officials before issuing new debt, and would face tough fines and directives to make fresh budget cuts if they exceed strict deficit limits.
The fiscally conservative Germans, in particular, have called for ratification of the treaty, inked in January, essential to ending years of overspending and overborrowing by their profligate neighbors. The pact’s passage, they have argued, would also be necessary before they will begin to consider the kind of radical cures for the crisis being called for now by a host of major figures, including Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank.
Among those cures are direct European aid for the region’s ailing banks, the issuance of collective debt through eurobonds that would act as a sort of U.S. Treasury bond for Europe, and a region-wide bank-deposit insurance program similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
The streets of Dublin this week were lined with placards exhorting the Irish to vote yes or no. Opponents of the treaty had argued that the budget cuts forced on this nation by the terms of its $113 billion international bailout have already crippled its economy and that pledging years more through the treaty would only make things worse. Led by Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, opponents also called the treaty a dangerous forfeiture of national sovereignty that would see the European Union become Ireland’s fiscal master.
But many Irish, like Pauline McCarthy, a 65-year-old mother of three who voted Thursday at a polling station in north Dublin, said the choice boiled down to one issue: stability. In a country now being propped up by the grace of a lifeline from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, the Irish government has forcefully argued that a rejection would panic investors and cut off any chance of future E.U. bailouts.
“We need stability, we need our spending to be under control for once, and the E.U. will be watching how the money is spent,” she said. “Ireland has hugely benefited by being a part of the E.U.; we wouldn’t have motorways or other things if it weren’t for them. The point now is, enough with the waste, and I think the treaty will be a good thing.”