The austerity referendum

Wednesday, 29 February, 2012

Ireland’s domestic economy is in a truly dreadful state. The IMF forecasts growth of 0.5 per cent, while Citigroup predicts shrinkage of one per cent. Home prices continue to slump, the unemployment rate has climbed to 14.5 percent and emigration has returned to 1980s levels. Meanwhile, the government is pushing through huge cuts in public spending while levying big tax increases on the struggling middle class.

This is the background for the planned referendum on the future fiscal governance of the eurozone in the form of the Treaty On Stability Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (PDF). Because the austerity program is hugely unpopular, the referendum outcome will be determined by the national mood, which is grim. However, the thought of having to keep on voting until Brussels gets the “Yes” is craves is so terrifying that the thing should be ratified by the first ballot. And despite the general cynicism about the country’s political class, no one wants to see the Taoiseach replaced an unelected technocrat as has happened in Greece and Italy.

Referendum or not, the debt mountain, massive, intimidating and shrouded in perpetual fog, looms over all and continues to cast its malignant shadow across the land.

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