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Europe

Irish foreign minister confident of second referendum win

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-19

Ireland's foreign minister has said he is confident the government will win a second referendum on the European Union's Lisbon treaty after Ireland won legal guarantees from its EU partners on issues ranging from military neutrality to abortion.

REUTERS - Ireland's foreign minister is confident, but not complacent, the government will win a second referendum on the European Union's Lisbon treaty and says it has learned from its mistakes in last year's unsuccessful campaign.

 

Ireland won legal guarantees from its EU partners in Brussels on Friday on issues ranging from military neutrality to abortion, enabling Dublin to announce a second plebiscite in October on the treaty aimed at making the EU more effective.

 

Irish voters plunged the 27-nation bloc into crisis when they rejected the treaty in a referendum last June. Despite the backing of the two main opposition parties, the government was accused of failing to allay voters' concerns and not tackling opponents to the treaty head-on.

 

"We are going to go at this campaign in a very intensive way. We have learned from the failure of last year," Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

 

"The campaign will be better organised, better coordinated. We are going to have a more energetic campaign. We have already engaged with civil society, we have engaged with those who opposed the treaty last time and taken into account their concerns with these assurances."

 
 
 
“Up to the people”
 

Opinion polls suggest the Lisbon treaty now has the support of a majority of Irish voters who see the benefits of EU membership to help combat the effects of the worst economic downturn in nearly 80 years.

 

Leading Irish bookmaker Paddy Power said it had recorded "significant" levels of betting from punters across Europe following Friday's deal in Brussels, sending odds on a Yes vote firming from 4-5 to 1-6 with a No vote plummeting to 7-2.

 

"We are confident of winning this, but we are by no way complacent and there is still a lot of work to be done," Martin said.

 

"We don't take the opinion polls as a benchmark. This is above political parties, it is now up to the people of Ireland to decide what is best for the country for generations to come."

 

The chances of a Yes vote were boosted earlier this month with the failure of anti-Lisbon group Libertas to make any impact in European elections, forcing their leader Declan Ganley to withdraw from politics.

 

Sinn Fein, the only elected political party to oppose the treaty, lost its only European Parliament seat in Dublin, severely damaging its mandate for a No vote.

 

"What I will say to those who voted No last time is that this has been a transparent and democratic process in which we took on board what the people said and we went back to Brussels and got the assurances that these voters wanted," Martin said.

 

The accord struck on Friday gives the guarantees the status of a treaty protocol -- an Irish demand -- but will not affect the ratification of the reforms in other EU countries.

 

Date created : 2009-06-19

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