Ireland’s Attorney General is to consider the text of the new European Treaty before deciding on the need for a referendum.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny has asked the cabinet to approve the Treaty, agreed on Monday night, and will now forward it to AG Maire Whelan.
The new intergovernmental treaty was agreed by all bar two EU member states at a meeting in Brussels. Britain refused to vote and the Czech Republic abstained.
Kenny has told reporters that the fiscal treaty holds no fears for his Coalition government but the final decision on a referendum could rest with the courts as he awaits Whelan’s advice.
Sinn Fein has already threatened to legally challenge the need for a referendum if Teehan decides that none is necessary under the Irish constitution.
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The new treaty, which will impose strict financial constraints on Ireland, has to be ratified by the government before the end of the year. A law banning the state from running budget deficits must be in place by March 2013.
Failure to implement the new ruling will bar Ireland from cheap funding under the EU bail-out scheme.
“If necessary, there will be a referendum and the Government have absolutely no fear or concern or anxiety about that,” said Irish PM Kenny.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan added: “The decision on a referendum will be based on the Attorney General’s advice but the general provisions of the treaty are along the lines of what we were thinking of doing domestically.”
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin was more sceptical. He said: “The fiscal treaty is too limited to solve the crisis. It can only make a contribution if it is accompanied by other more radical steps to help fund economic growth and job creation.”
Sinn Fein spokesman Padraig MacLochlainn warned the government on the referendum issue. He said: “They must do the right thing and hold a referendum irrespective of the legal advice from the Attorney General.”