BY JOE MCHUGH TD (FG)
THE EU Stability Treaty that is the subject of next Thursday’s referendum is a short 11-page text. It proposes to protect individual countries by placing requirements on participating countries to keep borrowings and debts within set limits, and to keep close to balanced budgets. Flexibility is built into the Treaty to take account of economic peaks and troughs in individual countries.
A YES vote in Thursday’s referendum would enable Ireland to access a new €700bn ESM firewall fund at low interest rates. The ESM fund has been established to help countries that may be unable to borrow due to lack of international lender confidence. A NO vote would deny us access to that fund.
Some of the arguments that have been put forward in recent weeks has been irrelevant. This is a simple EU Treaty.
The spirit of Loreto Community School transcends the difficulties that we face as a country and gives us hope for the future. Loreto Milford has been a profile in success from the day it first opened its doors under the stewardship of the Loreto Order, through to this week when An Taoiseach was introduced to its current students by Principal Andrew Kelly and his team.
Last Monday during his visit to Donegal the Taoiseach also had a proactive meeting with Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd’s management and staff at the company’s headquarters in Letterkenny.
That company employs 850 people in Letterkenny, and its management gave An Taoiseach an outline of Pramerica’s 5-year development plan, which incorporates liaison with Letterkenny Institute of Technology and with secondary schools across our region.
The company will create 100 new jobs in Letterkenny this year, and is continually seeking to employ computer programmers and workers with strong IT skills. This gives hope to young people throughout Donegal who are advancing to study computer technology and IT at third level.
Dismissiveness has accompanied predictions by some national commentators that Donegal will record a NO vote in next Thursday’s referendum.
Journalists and politicians whom I meet every week in Leinster House repeatedly tell me that they expect another NO vote from my home county. So-called experts should not be so quick to make assumptions about the voting intentions of the Donegal electorate.
Perceptions are often self-fulfilling prophecies.
Every Donegal person is very proud of this county’s natural beauty and heritage, and there is national acknowledgement of Donegal’s outstanding tourism qualities. This is a very positive perception that feeds into our county’s booming tourism sector.
Feedback from people who visit Donegal is overwhelmingly positive, and people who visit this county tend to return on holiday again and again and again.
There is also in Donegal a very prevalent perception that ‘up here we are forgotten’. This ‘Forgotten County’ label has justified origins in the historical effect on our county of partition and the Troubles, together with the lack of rail access and deficient road access.
Unfortunately, the ‘Forgotten County’ aphorism feeds into a perception that Donegal is very far away from Dublin and the rest of the country, which is not always helpful – or accurate! Today, despite the lack of motorway, Dublin is still closer to Carrigart than it is to Killarney.
Letterkenny is three hours from the Port Tunnel. Of course the A5 motorway from Derry to Monaghan is an urgent necessity for the northwest, and I continue to push at every opportunity for progress on the project.
10,100 Germans will visit Glenveagh National Park this year, and there will be Donegal spin-off from the Irish Open at Royal Portrush, from Derry City of Culture 2013 and from the Tall Ships.
The Department of Tourism and Fáilte Ireland are engaged in a major national media marketing exercise that is promoting Donegal as a golfing and tourism destination.
Donegal-based international companies including Pramerica, SITA, Zeus, United Health Group, E & I Engineering Ltd, Marine Harvest Ltd, Inishowen Engineering Ltd, Medisize and Kirchoff Ireland Ltd are significant drivers of our regional economy.
These companies complement a strong indigenous industrial base. Our region is an attractive location for international companies because of Ireland’s favourable tax environment, our highly skilled workforce, and because of Donegal’s strategic location close to Northern Ireland.
The Donegal-Derry/Tyrone/Fermanagh border is one of the UK’s two EU land borders – the other is Spain/Gibraltar. Companies seeking to invest in specific locations look to regional fiscal and political stability.
I ask voters to think about the isolating impact of Donegal standing alone to vote NO in a referendum when the rest of the country may vote YES.
National economic difficulties are impacting severely on every family in Donegal, and the Government has taken decisions that are very difficult for many people to accept.
The referendum is a vote on the 11-page EU Stability Treaty which has been posted to every house in the country; I encourage people to vote on the contents of the Stability Treaty itself. This political decision has been taken out of the hands of politicians and is now a matter for the people.
Donegal people don’t like being told what to do. Next Thursday is an opportunity to turn the ‘Forgotten County’ perception on its head. The national expectation is that Donegal will definitely vote NO. I respectfully ask Donegal people to challenge that perception.
The Stability Treaty referendum is an opportunity for Donegal to send out a positive signal when it is least expected. Donegal is very much open for business.
Let’s vote YES for Stability. Let’s vote YES for Donegal.