Poor performances by both sides in referendum campaign

The Yes side deserves to lose on Thursday for the way they have conducted themselves in the referendum debate: combining exaggeration threats and falsehoods. But the No side have been hopelessly inept at explaining how Ireland would fund its budget deficits if denied ESM funding. By Vincent Browne

The Irish grandads, Eamon Gilmore and Pat Rabbitte, need the support of their probable Soviet pals of the 1970s and 1980s, Buranovskiye Babushki, the Russian grannies who so impressively represented their country at Eurovision during the week. I suspect they might have met the Babushki in Moscow during their ideological induction classes in the early 1980s.

The Irish grandads and their sexagarian colleagues deserve to lose the referendum on Thursday, if only for the unSoviet-like submissiveness to the capitalist agenda of the EU. Remember the finger-wagging of "Labour's way or Frankfurt's way", in contrast to the childish eagerness to please the troika?

They deserve to lose it, too, because of the cowardly temerity of Enda Kenny in refusing to confront opposing views in a television studio, when his awkward, blabbering evasiveness in the Dáil would not wash.

If he is so timorous about defending his government's case at home, how confident can we be that he is any less feeble in presenting the country's case at EU summits? As Rabbitte might have said in 1983: "If you are afraid of wolves, don't go to the woods."

And the grandads deserve to lose it for the way they have conducted themselves in the referendum debate: exaggeration, mixed with threats and falsehoods - if we vote No, we will be outcasts with no investment, no jobs, no nurses' pay, no ATMs and no second vote. They need that little bit of razzmatazz which the Buranovskiye Babushki might bring.

A defeat for the Yes side on Thursday would damage the authority of the Government, maybe fatally, and that too might be a reason for some to vote against, because the Government deserves to have its authority fatally damaged - if only for the reason admitted by Enda Kenny himself - that it never sought a writedown of our debt, in flagrant disregard of the promises made in the election manifestoes of the two Government parties.

Maybe Kenny didn't know what he was talking about when he (at least twice) told this to the Dáil but, if this is so, that in itself is a reason to damage the authority of this government.

But there is also reason to be nervous of damaging the standing of the grandads, because the alternative crowd might make the Babushki seem like visionaries.

It is because of the helpless ineptitude of the No side in explaining how Ireland would fund our budget deficits if we are denied ESM funding. There is only one sensible answer to that: yes, there is a risk in voting No to the Fiscal Treaty, but it is a risk we have to take to register our outrage about all that has happened at the behest of the EU since 2008, and the betrayal of public trust by the grandads.

The No side has devised no coherent alternative economic or social strategy in the realms of the real world.

I suspect that this is partly intellectual laziness and partly opportunism. The raucous left does not want to acknowledge that the adjustment of the fiscal fiasco, aside from the bank debt and the interest on the bank debt, requires significant increases in taxation, not just for the super-rich, but for the moderately rich and for many who are hardly rich at all (assuming, I hope, they are not thinking of social welfare, health and education cuts).

Such significant increases, realistically, must include property taxes and water charges - albeit with protections for people on lower incomes.

Every time we hear about billions of euro from a wealth tax, the heart sinks and the grandads don't look so decrepit after all.

As Buranovskiye Babushki might say (for the benefit of those who were not in the Workers' Party in the 1970s and 1980s): "It was happening - a goat was eating up a wolf", or, in colloquial terms, "pigs might fly".

Almost certainly, if we voted No and needed a second bailout - which is also near-certain - they would fund us again, we would have to vote again, and they would give us a sweetener to encourage us to vote Yes. But there is a chance that they mightn't, or that it might all go wrong in the Eurozone turmoil that is coming.

There is a creepy dimension to what is happening. According to Reuters on 17 May, Jean-Claude Trichet, the recently-retired president of the European Central Bank, said at a meeting in Washington that Europe could strengthen its monetary union by giving European politicians the power to declare a sovereign state bankrupt and take over its fiscal policy.

He said that countries had agreed to surveillance of each other's budgets and to levy fines on countries that ran excessive budget deficits, giving them fiscal oversight authority. The next step would be to take a country into receivership when its political leaders or its parliament could not implement sound budgetary policies approved by the EU.

The action would be democratically accountable if it were approved by the European Council of EU heads of states and the elected European Parliament.

The structural deficit procedure in the Fiscal Treaty is not much different. But then, as Rabbitte's old Russian pals might say: "Without torture, there is no science." {jathumbnailoff}

Images top: chrisinplymouth.