Irish voters cast ballots on Thursday in a referendum to decide whether Dublin should agree to rein in public spending by ratifying a new EU treaty on fiscal discipline.
Germany, the eurozone’s strongest economy, has been leading the charge for stricter budget rules. Ireland is the only nation from the 25 EU countries who support the proposal putting it to a public vote.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny warns the country’s international reputation on the line.
He says a no vote will see its sovereign debt downgraded and that Ireland would be shut out from any future bailout aid after 2013.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams is one of the leading politicians calling on the Irish to reject the treaty, known as the Fiscal Compact.
The ‘no’ campaigners say it would lead to years of painful austerity measures.
The treaty will enshrine balanced budgets and prudence into law, similar to a provision in the German constitution.
Eurozone countries will scrutinise each other’s budgets and the European Court of Justice will be able to fine those who fail to respect the rules up to 0.1% of national GDP.
If pollsters have it right, then the ‘yes’ camp will seal victory by a margin of three to two.
Eighteen months ago Ireland tapped 85 billion euros of EU and IMF aid money when a property bubble burst that nearly brought down its banking sector.