DUBLIN (Reuters) - Senior Irish government figures have discussed the possibility of the president asking the supreme court to rule on whether Europe’s plans for fiscal union would require a referendum, the Sunday Business Post reported.
Irish citizens are entitled to vote on any major transfer of powers to Brussels and the country’s European minister has said that there is a 50-50 chance of a vote being needed once the pact is finalised in March.
Irish ministers are keen to avoid a referendum after voters only agreed to the two most recent treaty changes having first rejected them. But a decision not to hold a vote would be open to a supreme court challenge.
The Sunday Business Post said some ministers would rather see Ireland’s new president, Michael D. Higgins, refer the matter to the court first and eliminate the risk of the government being seen to be dragged into a vote.
For this to happen, the government would have to first pass legislation to enact the ‘fiscal compact’ agreement designed to tighten deficit rules across the euro zone and send the bill to the president for signature.
The right to refer new legislation to the supreme court for a judgement on its constitutionality is one of the few powers of
Ireland’s figurehead president, and has been used only 15 times since 1937.
The sources quoted in the newspaper said the matter was sensitive and the government could not be seen to be interfering in the president’s independent role.
A government spokesman said he would not second guess what the president would do.
“The position is very clear. If there is a requirement for a referendum, we’ll have one. If there is no requirement, we won’t. Any speculation of what the president will do is merely that,” the spokesman told Reuters.
The agreement made in December by 26 European Union member states to help resolve Europe’s debt crisis will only come into force when 15 of the euro zone’s 17 member states have ratified it, a new draft of the document obtained by Reuters showed on Thursday.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Rosalind Russell