27th Jun 2019

Dublin remains coy over Lisbon referendum date

  • Dublin: both sides are preparing for another campaign on the Lisbon treaty before the October deadline (Photo: EUobserver)

Irish minister for foreign affairs, Micheal Martin, refused on Thursday (19 March) to rule out the possibility of an early referendum on the Lisbon treaty, saying only that the government will stick to the timeline agreed at a summit of EU leaders last December.

"The government has not formally made a decision on the date of the referendum," he said.

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Under the December deal, Irish prime minister Brian Cowan agreed to hold a second referendum on the treaty before the term of the current European commission expires in October in exchange for legal guarantees in the sensitive areas of taxation, neutrality and social affairs.

It is generally thought the Irish government will hold the referendum in September or October, but Dublin is keeping quiet on details of the date.

The Czech EU presidency is currently drafting the guarantees, which need to be agreed by a summer summit of EU leaders on 18-19 June at the latest.

Mr Martin denied rumours of a rift between the two governments saying: "the relationship with the Czech presidency is going well."

Irish citizens rejected the Lisbon treaty last June by 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent. But recent opinion polls show a swing in favour of the treaty, with a number of Irish politicians arguing in favour of holding a referendum as early as May or June.

Mr Martin warned that "opinion polls are just opinion polls," adding that the government is not complacent about achieving a Yes vote second time round.

He acknowledged that the economic downturn has changed the debate in Ireland and that there is a greater appreciation of the benefits of EU and eurozone membership.

"The European Central Bank is underpinning our banking system," he said, explaining that the country would be significantly worse off without the euro.

One likely reason for Dublin's reluctance to rule out a referendum before the summer is a desire to keep the No side guessing and deny them a concrete timeline in which to campaign.

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