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Irish vote may reverse Lisbon treaty veto

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-18

Encouraging new polls have prompted pro-EU advocates within the Irish government to consider holding a second referendum on the stalled Lisbon reform treaty. The country is seeking guarantees from Brussels that it will retain its EU commissioner.

Ireland will decide in the next few weeks whether to hold a second referendum on the EU's stalled reform treaty, it said Monday, as a new poll bolstered those hoping to reverse a stunning "no" vote.
Foreign minister Micheal Martin said Ireland is notably seeking a guarantee from European Union partners on retaining its EU commissioner, which surveys showed was a key issue behind the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in June. The Lisbon Treaty ends the arrangement whereby one commissioner is allocated per member country enshrined in its Nice predecessor.
"Obviously it (the decision) will be taken in the days leading up to that and at the council (summit) itself," Martin told Ireland's RTE state broadcaster," referring to a December 11-12 EU summit in Brussels.
"We are in discussions on that specific issue... It was a significant issue encapsulating as it does the whole idea of people being at the table with additional influence," he added.
His comments came as a poll in the Irish Times indicated that voters may back the Lisbon Treaty if a number of reassuring declarations are attached.
The EU was plunged into crisis in June when Ireland, the only state in the 27-nation bloc to have held a referendum on the treaty, rejected the document by 53.4 percent.
But the Irish Times/mrbi poll found 43 percent would vote "yes" in a second referendum and 39 percent would vote "no" if they were reassured on certain issues of concern.
Specifically respondents were asked how they would vote if Ireland could keep its EU commissioner and it was clarified that backing the treaty would not open the way for abortion, or threaten Ireland's cherished military neutrality or the low corporation tax regime that has attracted job-creating inward investment.
According to the Irish Times, none of the changes would require a renegotiation of the treaty or a second ratification by any countries that have already approved it by parliamentary vote.
"Everything will depend on the quality of the campaigns waged by the Yes and No sides," said the newspaper, arguing that a second referendum was still "in the balance."
But the head of the main group opposing the EU treaty poured scorn on the proposed changes.
"I am confident that the Irish people would reject Lisbon again should the Irish government be so spineless as to allow themselves to be bullied into asking us a second time," said Declan Ganley, head of the Libertas group.
"Their Frankenstein's version of Lisbon would not win anything close to majority support from the Irish electorate, nor would it if it were put to (a) referendum anywhere else across Europe."
The Lisbon Treaty, which was aimed at streamlining the EU's workings to take into account its mainly eastwards expansion, requires the approval of all 27 EU member states.
It replaces the bloc's doomed constitution which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
After Irish voters said "no" to the Nice Treaty in 2001, the result was overturned the following year in a second referendum when clarifying declarations were given by other member states.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has promised to make proposals at a December EU summit -- shortly before France hands over the EU's rotating presidency to the Czech Republic on January 1 -- about how to break the deadlock.
The Irish Times poll was conducted last Monday and Tuesday among a representative sample of 1,000 voters in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies.

Date created : 2008-11-18