Page last updated at 06:23 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 07:23 UK

Close treaty poll result forecast

By Shane Harrison
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

No and Yes posters in Dublin
Both sides are predicting a close result in the Lisbon Treaty poll

On Friday voters in the Republic go to the polls for the second time in 16 months to cast their ballots on the Lisbon treaty.

Those in favour say it will streamline decision-making in an enlarged European Union but opponents argue that it undermines national sovereignty.

At first glance it's as if nothing has changed; the Yes and No posters still litter the lamp posts in cities, towns and country roads.

But Ireland in September 2009 feels very different from June 2008.

You can almost smell the fear that recession brings.

And the for Taoiseach Brian Cowen, it's a case of, "If at first you don't succeed try, try again."


Last June unemployment was less than 6%; now it is nearly 13%.

The budget deficit was less than 3%; now it's nearly 11% and the European Central Bank is helping keep the Republic's economy afloat.

Brian Cowen believes that is reason enough for a Yes vote later this week.

He says: "In terms of our present financial crisis, the centrality of Europe in helping us to stabilise and move from crisis to recovery is absolutely fundamental.

"And solidarity and support is a two-way street. I think it's also important at this critical time that we send a positive signal to the European Union."

Irish government research found that people voted No last time because of fears about losing an Irish EU commissioner, worries about a threat to low corporation taxes, and a perceived threat to both Irish neutrality and anti-abortion laws.

Mr Cowen received guarantees on those issues from his European partners before deciding to re-run the referendum.


But the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, isn't impressed by those assurances.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Irish leader Brian Cowen believes it's important to sent a positive signal to the EU

"There isn't one comma of difference from the treaty that's being out forward in this referendum to the one that was rejected by citizens in the last referendum", he says.

With a deeply unpopular government, the Yes side has been boosted by civil societies groups like Pat Cox's Ireland for Europe group.

The former president of the European Parliament has been taking his message around the country addressing meetings and lunches.

He has no doubt about why people should support all the main parties and vote yes.

He says: "If you're in a very big hole, and we're in a very big hole at the moment, I think we should stop digging.

"I would say to people to separate out their anger, their righteous anger even about our politics and say this is about the future of your country and your family where you control the answer."

This time round, Joe Higgins, a Dublin MEP and admirer of of the Russian communist Leon Trotsky, is the leading elected figure from the Republic on the No side.


Fierce in his opposition to capitalism and what he calls the European and Irish ruling classes, he says Lisbon is a bad treaty for ordinary people and workers because it favours bosses.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said the treaty has not changed

"The Irish Socialist Party believes that the Lisbon treaty advances the agenda of corporate Europe, very big business interests, the military establishment, the armaments industry and the political establishment and is hostile to the needs and interests of ordinary working people throughout the European Union", he said.

Once again the main political parties, with the exception of Sinn Fein, all the main business organisations and most, though not all the trade unions, are campaigning for a yes vote.

Those on the No side include republicans, left-wing parties, Catholic anti-abortion activists and Declan Ganley's Libertas.

Voters will cast their ballots this time in a climate of economic fear - where much as they might like to punish an unpopular coalition they also know Europe has been bailing the country out.

Nevertheless, both sides expect a close result - closer than the polls currently suggest.

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