Support grows for EU reform treaty
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A poll showed growing support for the European Union's reform treaty in Ireland, with 51 percent of respondents saying they would vote "Yes", an increase of eight points since November, and 33 percent saying "No", a drop of six points.
REUTERS - A new poll showed growing support for the European Union's reform treaty in Ireland as its main backers clashed on Sunday about the best date to hold a second referendum on the accord.
The Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll showed 51 percent would vote "Yes", an increase of eight points since November, with 33 percent saying "No", a drop of six points, the newspaper's website said in a preview of the poll to be published on Monday.
Sixteen percent said they did not know how they would vote. When undecided voters were excluded, the "Yes" side had 60.7 percent, with 39.3 percent in the "No" camp. That compared with last June's referendum result of 53.4 percent against and 46.6 percent in favour.
Earlier on Sunday, Ireland's main opposition party Fine Gael urged the government to hold a second referendum on the treaty in April, months earlier than previously proposed, to help deal quickly with economic woes.
The government reiterated the vote would happen before the end of October but it would not set a date until it agreed with European partners on the details of guarantees promised in exchange for holding the re-run.
An alliance between Fine Gael, the fellow opposition Labour Party and the governing Fianna Fail, which together represent an overwhelming majority of the electorate, failed to obtain a "Yes" vote in the first Lisbon Treaty referendum last June.
The treaty, aimed at streamlining decision-making in Brussels, must be ratified by all 27 EU member states. Ireland's constitution requires a referendum, stalling the whole process just as EU backers say the bloc needs to show it is capable of quick and coordinated action to tackle financial crisis.
Ireland said in December it was prepared to hold a second ballot on the basis of concessions secured from EU counterparts, which it hopes will sway opinion towards a "Yes" vote this time.
The concessions include allowing Ireland to keep a permanent commissioner and on sensitive areas of its traditional military neutrality, taxation policy and workers' rights.
"The conclusions of the December European Council state that work on the guarantees should be concluded no later than mid-2009," the foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
Once the guarantees are agreed, the government will call a second vote before the current European Commission leaves office at the end of October, the ministry said after Foreign Minister Micheal Martin met Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra to discuss the treaty and the economy.
The Czech Republic holds the EU's rotating presidency.
The Irish government has been focusing on a bailout of Ireland's largest banks, which has been overshadowed by a series of scandals. It has now made an overhaul of its financial regulatory system its next top priority.
Ireland became the first euro zone country to enter recession after the bursting of its property bubble and is running one of the highest budget deficits in the EU. Its problems have been compounded by a series of bank scandals.
The Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll was conducted last Monday and Tuesday, among a sample of 1,000 voters, whom it asked how they would vote "in the light of the commitment to allow Ireland to retain an European Union commissioner along with legal guarantees on other Irish concerns about neutrality, abortion and taxation".
In response to another question, whether it was better to be part of the EU in light of the economic crisis, 80 percent answered "yes".
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