Crisis sees Ireland warm to Lisbon treaty

A recent poll shows that the global crisis has changed the minds of Irish people toward the Lisbon Treaty, with 58% saying they would vote to ratify the treaty if a new referendum were held. Ireland rejected the treaty last June.


AFP - Ireland will back the EU's Lisbon treaty in a referendum re-run this year, according to an opinion poll Friday suggesting that the recession has triggered a "seismic change" in attitudes here.

A total of 58 percent either agree or strongly agree that the ailing former Celtic "Tiger" country would vote "Yes" to the treaty, which they rejected last June in a blow to the 27-nation bloc.

A total of 29 percent either disagree or strongly disagree, while 12 percent are undecided, according to the Lansdowne Market Research poll.

"The current recession appears to have put Europe and our position within the EU in a different light. Well over half of the public are concerned about Ireland losing its status in Europe," Lansdowne said.

"The seismic change in attitudes is very stark and evident," it said. "What is no doubt impacting on national sentiment is that nearly half of the population believe that the current recession will last three years or more."

Irish voters sparked a major political crisis last June by rejecting the Lisbon treaty -- a successor to the defunct EU constitution, aimed at streamlining decision-making in the expanded Union -- by 53 percent.

Ireland's rejection slowed integration efforts just as EU backers say the bloc needs to show it can take quick, coordinated action to tackle the financial crisis.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen said on Friday that he is prepared to hold another vote on the treaty -- probably later this year -- on the basis of concessions that have still to be finalised with EU partners.

Ireland has changed its mind before: in 2001 voters rejected the EU's Nice Treaty, but the result was overturned the following year in a second referendum when clarifying declarations were given by other member states.

The poll found 74 percent believe the government's handling of the economy is either very or fairly poor, an increase of 11 points since a similar poll in September.

Some 56 percent expect Cowen's coalition government will be forced into a general election this year.

Lansdowne interviewed a 1,000-strong representative sample of people by phone on January 12 to 23.

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