The mainstream media in Ireland hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory this week. RTE kept on reporting on Thursday a claim by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the text of the Fiscal Compact would not change following talks at the EU summit. Yet in France, there was no such admission from the French president Francois Hollande. Did RTE bother to check An Taoiseach’s claim, a claim which is very important indeed to our country about to go to the polls on Thursday next, and a claim you might have expected to therefore have featured in the EU summit communiqué but it didn’t? No, RTE seemingly got un-named sources at the EU to say the text would not be changed, but it seems it was beyond RTE to pick up the phone to the Elysee Palace to check the French position. The meme has since died away in the media. Reminds me of RTE’s “Georgia moment” when it illustrated the Russian incursion into south Ossetia and Georgiain 2008 with a map of Georgia,USA!
And today, Ireland’s main broadsheet newspaper the Sunday Independent exposes its own failings and hypocrisy. We have a well-written article in favour of the Treaty from Labour’s Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, but because the Independent has a particular stance towards the party leading the “no” vote, we have no real political response in balance. The hypocrisy is that the Independent claims to have complete editorial independence but apparently that stops when it comes to one political party, a party which seems to be consistently securing high teens and low twenties in the opinion polls. Instead we have the Sunday Independent’s current editor Anne Harris rambling on about some “underbubble” in an opinion poll. If anyone knows what an “underbubble” is, please share, but for the time being it looks as if the Sunday Independent is illiterate as well as hypocritical, and instead of pursuing exclusives it is pursuing exclusions. Rival newspaper, the Sunday Business Post has a contribution from Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty here, which is balanced with contributions from the chairman of Enterprise Ireland, Hugh Cooney and Antoin Murphy of Trinity College Dublin.
There has been precious little reporting or analysis of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in the mainstream media and remember a “yes” vote on Thursday allows the Government to sign Ireland up to the full provisions of the ESM – a €700bn fund which you and I are funding to the initial tune of €1.27bn but that may grow to €11.1bn and beyond – these are big numbers, €11bn is about one third of the State’s annual income. The ESM brings potential costs and benefits to Ireland. Although one TD has taken legal action against the Government to force a referendum on the ESM Treaty itself in addition to the Fiscal Compact, it will be later in the year when Deputy Thomas Pringle has his day in court. And meantime in July 2012, that is to say, five weeks away this country will hand over €254m to the ESM and the betting is that Spain will have first dibs on this money and the borrowing it secures in a matter of months. Deputy Pringle says these commitments should be put to the people in a vote, the Government disagrees, the matter is set to have an initial hearing in June 2012 and the understanding is that the Government has given an undertaking not to ratify the ESM Treaty until the court case has been disposed of, though that undertaking might need be enforced with an injunction.
A member of this blog’s audience has gone through both the Fiscal Compact and the ESM treaties in some detail and produced a 30-minute guide to both. Now there are guides to the Fiscal Compact available from the Referendum Commission and others, but I have yet to see an official guide to the ESM treaty, so this guide tries to fill a void.
The regular audience on here will be familiar with the balance observed in most debates, and this guide has balance though it is ultimately cautioning about the new treaties, and that might be interpreted as advocacy of a “no” vote. Regardless, it is a well-presented guide to both treaties with plenty of references and facts. If you get a spare 30 minutes, I recommend it – you can download it here.