A "no" could do most damage to Ireland itself, because its existing loans will run dry by the end of 2013 — and the treaty reserves the EU's future rescue fund to those nations that accept the new budget rules. But analysts agree a "no" from Ireland — the only member of 25 signatories willing to test public opinion on the issue — would rattle a eurozone already doubtful it can confine its debt crisis to the three bailed-out countries of Ireland, Greece and Portugal.
Ireland has posted the worst deficits in the EU for the past three years: 14.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, an EU-record 32.4 percent in 2010 and 13.1 percent last year. The appalling figures chiefly reflect Ireland's much-rued decision to try to stop Europe's worst banking crisis by nationalizing tens of billions' worth of toxic property debts. The costs proved too great for Ireland, savaging its credit ratings and forcing the EU-IMF to intervene.
Only when Ireland gets its deficit back down below 3 percent in 2015 or 2016, the key goal tied to existing EU-IMF aid, would the new treaty's tougher limit of 0.5 percent of GDP come into play and, potentially, extend Irish austerity to the end of the decade.
The Irish leader, Kenny, warned throughout the campaign that a "no" outcome would lead to further Irish credit-risk downgrades, make a second IMF-led bailout in 2013 the only plausible alternative to avoid a national default, and require even harsher austerity moves in 2013 and 2014 because Ireland no longer would be able to borrow from the EU.
Ireland's anti-treaty forces long have demanded write-downs on the remaining debt liabilities of Ireland's six banks, five of which have been nationalized and seen their biggest toxic debts transferred to two new state-run "bad banks."
State-guaranteed repayments to international bondholders of Ireland's most recklessly managed lender, the defunct Anglo Irish Bank, are expected to cost taxpayers €47 billion ($59 billion) by the time the last IOU is cleared in 2031. On Wednesday the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Matthew Elderfield, said Ireland's total bank-bailout bill might need to rise an additional €4 billion ($5 billion) to €68 billion ($85 billion) — a sum equivalent to around €19,000 ($24,000) per man, woman and child in Ireland.
Anti-treaty Irish pressure group, http://www.libertas.ie/
Pro-treaty Irish think tank, http://bit.ly/JwWvVO