Support for Lisbon Treaty drops in Ireland
By Honor Mahony
With just a month to go until Ireland's second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a poll has shown that 46 percent support a yes vote, down eight points since May.
Published by the Irish Times, the TNS mrbi poll shows a rise of one point in those saying they plan to vote No to 29 percent with the Don't Knows registering at 25 percent, up seven points in comparison to a pre-summer survey.
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The newspaper notes that most of the people who have left the Yes side have entered the Don't Know category rather than crossed to the No camp.
The drop in support for the treaty is reminiscent of the trend in the weeks ahead of the first referendum which resulted in a No in June last year. It is set to spur the government to place more focus on a strong and coherent campaign.
However, prime minister Brian Cowen's Fianna Fail party, grappling with the devastating effects of the economic crisis, has reached an historic low in polls, garnering just 17 percent support in another poll by the Irish Times.
The survey indicates that 85 percent are dissatisfied with the government's performance while 11 percent approve it.
Dan Boyle, chairman of the Green Party, the junior governing party, said that it will be a "challenge" for the government to survive until January, with general elections only due in 2012.
For his part, Mr Cowen has met with the main opposition parties to work out how to make the most effective Yes campaign ahead of the 2 October poll.
He has also tried to persuade to voters to rise above their feelings for the government and concentrate on the issue at hand in the referendum.
"I don't believe this is about the future of this government or the future of personalities, it's about the future of the country. This is not politics as usual. It goes beyond any issues of party, organisation or locality. It is about our country's future," said the prime minister on Wednesday (2 September).
However, Irish citizens have been shocked by the gravity of the economic crisis and the austerity measures proposed by the government to tackle it. In addition, much of the discussion in recent days has concerned the government's controversial plans to set up a 'bad bank', or National Asset Management Agency, to swallow toxic assets but the plan is viewed with scepticism by the public.
The Irish vote is hugely anticipated in Brussels, where there is widespread hope that the Lisbon Treaty will be passed and a backlog of decisions and discussions can then take place in light of the result.
Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland must also complete ratification of the Treaty, which introduces a powerful EU foreign policy chief, a president of the European Council and gives greater powers to the European Parliament.