Ireland's voters have agreed to ratify the European Union's new deficit-fighting treaty. The government expressed relief but saw little reason to celebrate.
Ireland passed the fiscal pact with a comfortable majority, according to the results of a referendum. Election officials on Friday said 60.3 percent had voted "yes" in the previous day's poll. The result was welcomed by Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his cabinet.
"It's a sigh of relief from the government rather than a celebration," Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told reporters in Dublin.
The fiscal pact is meant to shore up the eurozone by penalizing countries that fail to keep their deficits under control.
Had voters rejected the pact, heavily-indebted Ireland could have been blocked from receiving new EU loans when its 2010 bailout money runs out next year. It also could have caused uproar elsewhere in Europe, where austerity programs have also caused anger among citizens. Ireland is the only member to put the treaty's ratification to a popular vote.
Fiscal discipline required
"The question now is where will the jobs and the stability they have promised come from, against the backdrop of a continuing and deepening capitalist crisis within Europe? [The pro-treaty side's] policies will only make the situation worse," said Joe Higgins, the leader of Ireland's Socialist Party, which opposed the treaty along with the nationalist Sinn Fein.
Countries that ratify the treaty, which was signed by European leaders in February, are expected to reduce their annual deficits to no more than 0.5 percent of gross domestic product. The eurozone's current limit is 3 percent of GDP.
Only around half of the Irish electorate of 3.1 million are estimated to have cast ballots.
ncy/ccp (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)