22nd Mar 2018

Irish largely undecided on EU treaty

  • Ireland is likely to hold the referendum in May or June, the government has indicated (Photo: EUobserver)

A large majority of Irish people do not know whether they will vote yes or no to the new EU treaty which is expected to be put to a referendum in the country early next summer.

Some 62 percent of Irish remained undecided on the new document aimed at making the union function more effectively, while 25 percent are in favour and 13 percent are against, according to a poll commissioned by The Irish Times.

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The figures also represent a sharp drop in support when compared to a poll on opinions on the European Constitution.

A survey conducted in March 2005 by the paper showed that 46 per cent said they would vote yes, 12 percent said they would vote no and 42 had no opinion.

The EU constitution was shelved after it was rejected by France and the Netherlands in summer 2005, but the new EU treaty - known as the Reform Treaty - maintains most of its innovations.

The latest survey indicates that Dublin will have to work hard to get a yes for the new treaty - with Ireland the only country so far to have said it will definitely have a referendum on the document.

But the government is likely to have taken on board the harsh lesson of 2001 when Irish voters rejected the EU's Nice Treaty.

At the time Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern was accused of having taken his eye off the political ball and not anticipating that there could be a no vote until it was too late.

The vote was eventually reversed the following year in another referendum after the political classes went into overdrive and a protocol on neutrality was attached to the treaty.

All 27 EU member states have to ratify the Reform Treaty for it to come into place – with governments aiming for it to come into force early 2009.

As the possible only referendum country, Ireland is expected to become a battleground for pro- and anti-EU campaigners - particularly with such a high number of undecided voters.

French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen recently caused a stir in the country when he said he was prepared go to Ireland to campaign against the treaty.

But while the poll indicates the Irish vote on the treaty remains wide open, it is clear that Ireland will not be the first to try and ratify the treaty.

Several countries - including France, Slovenia and the Czech Republic - have all said they want to be among the first countries to do so via their parliaments early in 2008.

The treaty was rubberstamped last month and is expected to be formally signed off by EU leaders in December, after which the ratification process can begin.

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