ON THURSDAY Ireland faces a critical choice. We must decide between two possible journeys. For me, it’s a clear choice. We can choose the path which will lead us to certainty, to strong, effective rules to govern our currency, to more and better inward investment into our economy, creating growth and jobs.
It will ensure we have a clear road to billions of euro should we need it in the future.
The alternative is a path leading to turmoil and uncertainty – one which prevents us from accessing the emergency fund of €700 billion should we need it, one which will lead to instability and undermine our efforts to attract investment and one which will damage the euro, which is so vital to our economic recovery.
I honestly believe that a No vote would be a disaster for Ireland. Some claim that Ireland should vote No as a protest against austerity. Some say that we can opt for a “growth agenda” instead. They seem to think there is an easy solution to Ireland’s economic woes, that somewhere lies a pot of gold, which will magically cause our debt and deficit to disappear.
This version of Ireland’s future sounds attractive, but it is clearly not credible. We require real solutions, difficult and arduous as they may be. Ireland will not recover and prosper on the basis of fairytales and fantasy. There is no alternative but to face reality and work together to surmount our common challenge.
So far, 2012 has been a rather spectacular sporting year. Everyone brimmed with pride last week when Katie Taylor once again claimed her world championship title and simultaneously qualified for the Olympic Games. Even the most diehard Munster fans appreciated the historic Leinster victory in Twickenham, when the boys in blue were crowned Heineken Cup champions for the third time in four years.
We are all looking forward to a summer brimming with sports events from the European Championships to the London Olympics. Our hopes are high with anticipation and expectation and it is no wonder, given the talented, primed and professional athletes we are fortunate enough to have representing us.
We can learn some lessons from them. They have achieved excellence in the sporting field, not by virtue of luck or by accident, but because they are thorough in their planning, methodical in their preparations and they leave nothing to chance.
Every hour of every day is planned. They leave no stone unturned in preparing for competition and know very well that there is no alternative to hard graft. To achieve results, to succeed against the best in the world, they must toil and sweat.
They must endure pain and disappointment in order to reach the height of their ambition. There is no shortcut, no easy option because effort equals results.
Similarly, there is no shortcut to getting Ireland back on track. I hope that we in Government have tried to be frank and honest about that. There are plenty of opponents of the fiscal treaty who will claim that we can magic our problems away, but we cannot. We must continue in the quiet, determined way in which we have tackled this financial crisis since it began. We must work steadily and with determination towards Ireland’s recovery, and voting Yes to the treaty is an essential element of that.
Irish people have already invested huge effort and sacrifice in this recovery effort. Since 2008, we have seen difficult budgets reduce spending and increase taxation in an effort to plug the enormous hole that was left in our public finances after the property collapse. We have stomached the bailout of irresponsible banking institutions and we have seen unemployment and emigration skyrocket.
All of this has had a profound effect on our country and our people. However, we are beginning to see small signs that all of this effort and sacrifice has not been in vain.
Our economy grew last year for the first time since 2007. It was very modest growth, but an important shift in the right direction. We have seen a dramatic turnaround in inward investment over the past year. Foreign direct investment almost dried up after the crash in 2008. However, 2011 saw a sharp increase in FDI, with a record increase of 30 per cent in first-time investment.
This investment is translating directly into crucial jobs like the 1,000 jobs announced by Paypal and the 800 jobs announced by Sky recently. Other key investors which have also voted confidence in Ireland’s recovery include Apple, Mylan, Eli Lilly and Allergan, all of which have announced significant jobs for Ireland in the past few months.
The effort for Irish people has been immense, but much like our brilliant footballers, rugby players and boxers, we must take heart from the small successes and not get side-tracked by empty promises of easy wins. We need to keep focused on our goal – regaining our economic sovereignty and standing on our own two feet again.
The fiscal treaty will not solve all our problems – I have never pretended that it will. However, it is a vital step on the road to our recovery. It will not hinder that path and will help make our journey much smoother. The treaty was created by countries, including Ireland, who share the same currency, the euro, to try to help stabilise that currency. This is the currency with which we pay our wages, our pensions, our social welfare.
It is the money in our bank accounts and the money with which we trade overseas. Its stability is fundamental to Ireland’s recovery. A Yes vote will help to secure stability for our currency and thus aid Ireland’s recovery effort.
More pressingly, a Yes vote will ensure that we have access to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the vital fund of €700 billion, which will act as an insurance policy for Ireland as we exit our troika funding programme in 2013.
We face a funding shortfall in 2014 of €18 billion. It is essential that we have the ESM as a safety net during that period. Overseas investors, who are so vital to our recovery effort, need to know, and will demand to know, that we are fully funded into the future. Understandably, they will not take risks with their future – nor should we.
A Yes vote will give us the clarity, certainty and stability we need to continue towards our goal of economic renewal for this country.