Ireland. Bertie Ahern resigned as prime minister in May
after eleven years in the post. According to
Countryaah reports, Finance Minister Brian Cowen
took over both as head of government and leader of Fianna
One reason Ahern resigned now was concern that criticism
of his private affairs would affect the outcome of the
referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty later in the year. I.
was the only EU country to allow citizens to vote on the
issue, as all constitutional amendments must be approved by
voters. All major parties and the business community pleaded
for a yes, while the downside was a diverse collection of
leftist groups, the Catholic Right and a new market liberal
group called Libertas and Sinn Féin, the IRA's political
branch. Just over 53 percent of voters voted no June 12.
Behind the no-votes, among other things, were fears that I.
would lose her neutrality, be forced to allow abortions and
gender-neutral marriages, or be forced to raise taxes.
Others felt that the Treaty would give Brussels too much
power. Many also complained that they had not understood the
Treaty text. The outcome of the election created concern in
the EU, as approval was required from all countries to move
forward to realize the content of the Treaty. It was
speculated whether I. would hold a new referendum, in the
same way as it did after the voters' refusal to the Treaty
of Nice in 2001.
During the year, there were increasing signs that the
economy was deteriorating rapidly, after several years of
high economic growth. A clear sign was falling prices in the
housing market. When the international financial crisis hit
the country during the autumn, the government decided in
September to raise the guarantee for deposited funds up to
EUR 100,000 in the country's largest banks for a two-year
period. The Irish government initially received criticism
from other EU countries for not consulting them before the
measures were taken. A month later, however, the European
Commission gave its approval.
The Cowen government presented a tight budget in October.
Several savings sparked protests. Particular upset was the
decision that all 70-year-olds would no longer automatically
have to pay for care. There was also dissatisfaction within
the ruling Fianna Fáil, and in Dublin and elsewhere in the
country, thousands of people gathered to demonstrate their
dissatisfaction with the planned cuts.
In connection with an EU summit in December, Prime
Minister Cowen announced that I. would hold a new referendum
on the Lisbon Treaty by October 2009. He said that the Irish
government, among other things, had received guarantees that
the country's neutrality, tax legislation and ethical issues
such as abortion did not would be affected by the Treaty and
that the country should retain its EU Commissioner.