Would Ireland really need a Referendum on Treaty change?

Paul doesn’t like themdoesn’t like them, but there is some limited evidence (according to the Spectator this week) that populations which are regularly consulted and feel part of the political process are happier than those who are not.

In Ireland the population is so rarely consulted (and her politicians so rarely called upon to publicly justify policy), that it always feels like a game of political Russian roulette, with four of six chambers loaded.

Yet the Irish Times’ leader today warns the Taoiseach of using an Irish referendum as a threat (‘don’t make us agree to fiscal consolidation or the fluffy kitten gets it’). And it reasons, the grounds for calling one are as much political as legal:

Yet, the fear of rejection notwithstanding, the legal requirement to hold a referendum on changes in our relationship with the EU is by no means absolute. In signing up to the Treaty of Rome we incorporated in our Constitution a provision (article 29) recognising the constitutionality of future “laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State necessitated by the obligations of membership of the Communities”. Those words, the Supreme Court recognised in the Crotty case (1987), “must be construed as an authorisation . . . not only to join the Communities as they stood in 1973, but also to join in amendments of the Treaties so long as such amendments do not alter the essential scope or objectives of the Communities”.

In such circumstances – and a consolidation of monetary union discipline would certainly seem to be covered – a referendum is not legally required as such changes would be deemed consistent with the Constitution (in the case of treaty changes approving new accessions to the EU, we have never bothered holding referendums).

The last Irish Minister of Finance who held out for Irish independent action on fiscal matters had his (and his government’s) cards well and truly marked…