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Written Answers - Constitutional Amendments

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 754 No. 3

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 109.  Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly  asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  if officials or representatives involved in discussions leading to the new euro area treaty were given any instruction to seek that the treaty would not include a requirement for it to be given constitutional enactment in participating countries; if officials or representatives proposed any wording relating to the way in which the treaty would take effect in participating countries, and the text of same; if officials or representatives made any proposal for the wording of Article [369]3.2 of the treaty, and the text of same; and his input into this clause referred to by the Taoiseach in the Dáil. [6873/12]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore In the negotiations on the ‘Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union’ the Government’s main objective was to secure a good deal for Ireland and for Europe. The Irish negotiating team — political and official — pursued a number of priorities, each of which was fully secured. These included ensuring that the position of countries in an EU/IMF Programme is fully reflected in the text — nothing in the new Treaty alters in any way the terms of the Programme; ensuring that the Treaty remains as close as possible to existing EU Treaties and to existing and proposed EU secondary legislation; ensuring that different legal traditions and practices are accommodated in the Treaty text; and ensuring that the new deficit brake can be applied in a way that makes sense in all Member States.

These objectives were advanced though active participation in negotiating sessions, including in offering suggestions on text, and through a number of written submissions on drafts as they evolved.

In offering views on the ‘deficit brake’ set out in Article 3.2, the Irish team, while fully subscribing to the view that commitments in this area should be binding, successfully argued for the inclusion of a degree of flexibility to give appropriate recognition to the different legal and constitutional traditions and requirements that apply in different countries. We made it clear that, unlike many other participating countries, we do not have a tier of law between statute law and the Constitution, that the Houses of the Oireachtas take decisions by means of a simple majority (subject to specific exceptions set out in the Constitution) and we do not generally include detailed provisions in the Constitution.

A number of other countries joined with us in seeking this degree of flexibility, given their respective domestic legal circumstances. To meet those concerns, it was agreed to include the word ‘preferably’ ahead of ‘Constitutional’ in Article 3.2.

Accommodating such differences has always been a feature in the conduct of European business, and the final text is a balanced one that Ireland can accept.

As the Deputy will be aware, following last week’s meeting of the Government, I have written to the Attorney General formally seeking her advice on whether a referendum will be required to allow Ireland ratify the new Treaty. The Attorney General is now studying the legal implications carefully, and will deliver her advice in due course. Once her advice is received, the Government will consider it carefully and will take whatever decisions are necessary. As it has made clear, if a referendum is required, one will be held.

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