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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described this morning’s judgment from the High Court as “very significant” and said it vindicates his decision to take the matter to court in advance of the referendum.  He said it is now clear that the view of the Referendum Commission on the exercise of the veto is not fact but opinion.  It remains Sinn Féin’s strong view that the government retains a veto over this matter.

Deputy Doherty said

“For several weeks now the yes campaign have been using commentary from the Referendum Commission as definitive statements of fact.  It is now clear that this view is not shared by the High Court. The view of the Referendum Commission is not fact but opinion.  

“Justice Hogan stated clearly that there is room for legitimate legal and political debate on the question and the position would be ultimately be decided by the European Court of Justice in reference with the Supreme Court.  He acknowledged that powerful and legitimate arguments had been made by my legal team.

“We believe that for the ESM to be underpinned in EU law it has to be ratified by all member states and that the Irish government retains a veto.

“Sinn Féin took this matter to Court because this is an issue of central importance to the referendum.  I believe that the significant questions raised, vindicates our decision to pursue this course of action in the interests of the voters.”

Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has welcomed the decision of the High Court to hold a special sitting at 8pm this evening to hear his application for a Judicial Review in relation to the Referendum Commissions comments on May 3rd that the government no longer had a veto in relation to the ESM.

Deputy Doherty said:

“It is our belief that the Referendum Commission erred in fact and law when they made a statement on May 3rd that the government no longer had a veto in relation the ESM. 

“This statement has been used repeatedly, by advocates of the Treaty as one of their key reasons for a yes vote. This is despite the fact that the Referendum Commission qualified their position on May 18.

“However the failure of the Referendum Commission to retract the original statement and to adequately publicise their subsequent clarification has meant that the incorrect account of the matter has continued to be quoted widely. 

“I welcome the fact that Judge Hogan has mentioned the possibility of a telescopic hearing which could lead to lead to the substantive issues being dealt with tonight. Sinn Féin is absolutely certain of our view that Ireland will continue to have access to emergency funding regardless of the outcome of the referendum.” 

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this morning confirmed that Pearse Doherty’s legal team wrote to the Referendum Commission on Friday challenging the Commission’s assertion that the opportunity for a veto on the ESM was now gone. Sinn Féin firmly believes that this is not correct. A Judicial Review was lodged in the courts this morning.

Deputy Adams said:

“Sinn Féin has consistently challenged the Government’s claim that emergency funding will not be available if people vote no on Thursday. It is our firm view that this is not the case. Sinn Fein has also taken issue with the Referendum Commission’s interpretation of this matter.

“Pearse Doherty’s legal team wrote to the referendum commission on Friday. The letter challenged the Commission’s assertion that the opportunity for a veto on the ESM was now gone. Sinn Féin firmly believes that this is not correct. 

“This is a matter of central importance to the referendum. We are looking for the Referendum Commission to acknowledge that the Government is legally at liberty to withhold ratification of the Article 136 amendment to the EU treaties.

“Pearse Doherty’s legal team lodged a Judicial Review this morning and the matter will be heard shortly.”

Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has described as “dishonest” claims made today by  Minister for Finance Michael Noonan that a no vote would make next year’s budget tougher.

Deputy Doherty said:

“Michael Noonan’s claim today that a no vote on May 31st would make next year’s budget tougher is simply untrue. The Minister’s claims are dishonest.

“The headline targets for next year’s budget have already been agreed by the Government and the Troika.

“If the Government downgrades its own growth forecasts again it will be because of its failed economic policy, not the outcome of the referendum.

“Austerity is blocking a return to growth. We are officially back in recession. The Government has been forced to downgrade its growth forecasts for 2012 four times in the last twelve months.

“The reason for this is clear, austerity at home hurts the domestic economy and austerity across the EU hurts our export sector. The Austerity Treaty seeks to impose even greater levels of austerity at home and across the EU in the years ahead which will be bad for jobs and bad for growth.

“A strong no vote this Thursday will strengthen the hands of those at home and abroad arguing against austerity and for jobs and growth.”

Speaking today Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on voters to “trust their instincts and vote no this Thursday.” The Dublin Central TD said that, “The positive thing to do on Thursday is to vote No.  A strong no vote is in the best interests of Ireland and the European Union.” Sinn Féin is holding two major rallies in Dublin and Galway this evening and I would invite anyone who is still undecided to attend.”

Deputy McDonald said:

“Passing the Austerity Treaty this Thursday will mean more austerity and less democracy.  Sinn Féin is calling on voters to do what is best for Ireland. The positive thing to do on Thursday is to vote No.

“Most people instinctively know that this Treaty is a bad deal. They know that the Government has not been able to find a single positive reason to vote yes. They know that the Treaty may well be subject to change. They know that the Government’s campaign has been based on fear.

“I am urging people not to be bullied on Friday. People should trust their own instincts and do what they feel is right for themselves, their family and the country.

“A strong no vote this Thursday will strengthen the hand of all those, at home and across Europe, who are arguing for investment in jobs and growth. It will send a strong signal to the Government that austerity simply isn’t working and that a change of direction is needed.

“Sinn Féin is holding two major rallies in Dublin and Galway this evening and I would invite anyone who is still undecided to attend.  The Dublin Rally will take place at 7.30pm in the Pillar Room in the Rotunda and the Galway Rally will take place at 8pm in the Menlo Park Hotel.” 

Speaking at the launch of the party’s “Euro 2012 Support Ireland” referendum campaign poster, Sinn Féin European Affairs spokesperson Senator Kathryn Reilly said that, “On May 31st the electorate can support Ireland by saying no to this bad Treaty.”

Senator Reilly was joined by football pundit and manager of Monaghan United Roddy Collins for the launch.

Senator Reilly said;

“The Austerity Treaty is bad for Ireland and bad for Europe. If ratified it will mean more austerity and less democracy. Its harsh rules will demand an extra €6 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts post 2015. Its tough enforcement mechanisms will see more power transferred from the Oireachtas to the European Commission and European Court of Justice.

“On May 31st Sinn Féin is calling on voters to stand up for Ireland and to say no to this bad deal. If you want to support your country then you should reject the Austerity Treaty. A strong no vote will strengthen the hand of those of us calling for investment in jobs and growth.”

Speaking today at a press conference Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said: “Enshrining the Austerity Treaty and its harsh fiscal rules in international law and giving it the protection of our constitution will make it almost impossible to change in the future.

Deputy Doherty said: “This is a terrible way to make economic policy” and urged voters “to think very carefully of the long term legal consequences of their decision.”

Deputy Doherty said:

“The harsh fiscal rules and tough enforcement mechanisms in the Austerity Treaty are bad for Ireland and for Europe.

“We are being asked to sign up to an inter-governmental treaty that will place legal obligations on this Government and all future Governments. These obligations will only be able to change with the consent of all the countries that ratify this Treaty

“We are also being asked to give these harsh rules and tough enforcement mechanisms the protection of our constitution.

“In plain English this means that once ratified it will be almost impossible to extract ourselves from the legal obligations arising from the Austerity Treaty. Enshrining the Austerity Treaty and its harsh fiscal rules in international law and giving it the protection of our constitution will make it almost impossible to change in the future.

“While Fine Gael and Labour may be happy with the content of the Treaty they can not speak for future Governments. Yet they are asking the voters to tie the hands of future Governments and limit future Governments ability to take the kinds of economic policy decisions that may well be in the best interests of the country.

“This is a bad way to make law. It is a terrible way to make economic policy. Fiscal policy belongs in Oireachtas legislation not legally binding international agreements and constitutional amendments.

“Governments need to have the flexibility to change laws and make different policy choices. The Austerity Treaty seeks to remove this flexibility and impose a rigid fiscal policy on all future Governments. It also undermines the right of democratically elected Governments to choose other options by giving unelected officials in Brussels and Luxembourg the power to enforce the harsh rules contained in the treaty.

“Sinn Féin believes that future Governments should have as much flexibility as possible and as many policy tools as are available in order to best manage our economy. The only way to ensure this flexibility and this choice is to vote No on May 31st.”

Speaking today Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn said: “With such a large number of voters still undecided, this campaign needs a calm and considered head to head debate between the leaders of the yes and no sides.” The Donegal deputy called on Enda Kenny “to provide the voters with such a debate”.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“With only nine days left to go in the Austerity Treaty referendum campaign voters are now making up their minds. There is a large volume of information in the public domain. Public meetings are taking place across the country.   There have also been a large number of TV and radio debates.

“However a very significant number of voters are still undecided. In my view this campaign needs a calm and considered head to head debate between the leaders of the Yes and No campaigns. I genuinely believe that a live televised debate between An Taosieach Enda Kenny and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams is in the best interests of the campaign and the voters.

“It would allow people, particularly those who remain undecided, to hear both the arguments from the leaders of the two campaigns and their responses to each other. Any such debate needs to be measured, calm and based on providing the voters with the information and analysis informing both sides of the campaign.” 

Speaking in response to comments made today by pro-Austerity Treaty campaigner Pat Cox, Sinn Féin campaign director Eoin Ó Broin has said that, “ESM funding will be available in 2014 if required by the Government irrespective of how the people vote on the Austerity Treaty.”

Ó Broin said:

“Access to ESM funds will be determined by the ESM Treaty not the Austerity Treaty. Ratification of the ESM Treaty will not take place until later this year.

“The primary legal mandate of the ESM is outlined in Articles 3 and 12 of that Treaty which say that funding would be provided where it is ‘indispensable to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area as a whole and of its Member States.’

“Pat Cox is right when he says that the controversial black-mail clause linking access to ESM funds to ratification of the Austerity Treaty is contained in recital 5 of the ESM Treaty.

“However Pat also knows that as a recital the blackmail clause does not have the same legal force as a Treaty article. If the Government is in need of emergency funding come 2014, failure to provide that funding would destabilise the Eurozone as a whole. On this basis there will be a clear legal obligation to provide such funding.

“It also remains the case that the Government has the power to secure the removal of the blackmail clause from Recital 5 of the ESM Treaty in the event of a no vote. If the Yes side is genuinely concerned about this clause they should seek to have it removed rather than use it in an attempt to bully voters into supporting the Austerity Treaty.

“Given that the State’s total liability to the ESM fund is €11 billion it is hardly credible to claim that the government would agree to contributions on such a scale if they could not access the fund.” 

Sinn Féin Foreign Affairs spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has challenged the government to move beyond inaccurate soundbites and actually debate the content of this Treaty.  

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said “This Treaty will not bring stability or certainty.  It will give constitutional protection to the type of policies being pursued by Angela Merkel, which are now being rejected by serious politicians across the EU.  It is clear that Fine Gael and Labour are on the wrong side of this debate and are fast being left behind by events across Europe.”

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“With only ten days to go it is clear that the fate of the Austerity Treaty rests with voters who are, as yet, undecided.

“The question most people are asking themselves is; how will this Treaty affect them and their families, what will it mean for the country in the future?

“I would urge voters to look beyond the Government’s threats and at the actual content of the Treaty.

“This Treaty will not bring stability or certainty.  It will give constitutional protection to the type of policies being pursued by Angela Merkel, which are now being rejected by serious politicians across the EU. Things are changing rapidly but the Irish government seems to be oblivious to what is going on across the rest of Europe. It is clear that Fine Gael and Labour are on the wrong side of this debate and are fast being left behind.

“The government is unable to identify any positive benefits to supporting this Treaty because there are none. The Treaty will mean more austerity in the future. This will lead to more unemployment and emigration. It will cost an extra €6 billion in cutbacks and tax hikes. It will also see more powers being handed over to the European commission and European Court of Justice.

“Every day there is more evidence that austerity is not working. The number of households in mortgage distress has reached a staggering 115,000.  People simply do not have enough money to keep a roof over their heads.

“More austerity means more consequences such as this. This Treaty is a bad deal for Ireland and for Europe. We need a change of direction.  We need solutions that are going to work.  We need investment in jobs. Be positive, vote No on May 31st.” 

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