IRISH voters are once again having their say on their country’s relationship with Europe, this time with the referendum on the EU Fiscal Treaty set for Thursday of this week.
The poll will allow voters to have the final say on whether the Republic will adopt the treaty, which critics claim will give Brussels too much power over Irish financial affairs, but which supporters say could save the economy from floundering further.
Ireland is the only country in the 17-member eurozone holding a referendum on the treaty – required under Irish law – and although a close call, early reports suggest the “Yes” camp could win the day.
The Fine Gael/Labour coalition government is urging the public to back the treaty, which, if adopted, will tighten the rules on Ireland’s finances. The government parties argue that a “Yes” vote will also guarantee stability for Ireland’s uncertain economy.
However, the “No” campaign, which is being spearheaded by Sinn Féin, has dubbed the document the “Austerity Treaty” and argues that approval will condemn a recession-weary population to years of belt-tightening.
This week, new polls showed a significant rise in support for Sinn Féin, with twice the number of voters supporting the all-island party than Labour.
“Yes” campaigners fear this surge could be reflected in the outcome of the referendum.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, addressing his party’s annual ard fheis last weekend, slammed the Taoiseach and Tánaiste for their claims on the vote.
“The truth is Mr. Kenny and Mr. Gilmore are out of their depth, this government simply cannot be trusted on this treaty,” said the Louth TD,
“It claims we will be locked out of funds if citizens vote no. That’s not true. So don’t be fooled.
“Remember what Fine Gael and Labour said during the election. Remember all Fianna Fáil’s promises. Don’t be fooled, be wise. Join with the millions across Europe who are demanding an end to austerity.
“It is a good and patriotic and positive action to say no to a treaty that is bad for you, bad for your family and community, bad for society and entirely without any social or economic merit.”
Meanwhile, as argument came down to the wire, voting actually got under way Tuesday morning on the Mayo islands of Inishturk, Inishbiggle and Clare Island.