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Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 14:45 UK

Irish PM bids to rally EU support

Irish PM Brian Cowen. File pic.
Brian Cowen said Lisbon was the best treaty on offer

Ireland's PM Brian Cowen has launched a strong attack on opponents of a key EU reform treaty ahead of the country's referendum on the issue on Thursday.

The Taoiseach accused the No campaign of "sheer inaccuracy and absurdity" and said Ireland could not get a better deal than the one on offer.

Opponents say the Lisbon Treaty should be renegotiated.

Recent opinion polls suggest the result of the referendum - the only one being held in a EU country - could be close.

The other 26 members of the EU are using parliamentary votes to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. But Ireland is obliged to hold a referendum because it involves changing the constitution.

All 27 must ratify the treaty, which is meant to streamline decision-making processes in the EU, for it to come into effect next year, as planned.

Turnout

Mr Cowen told BBC radio's The World This Weekend that the treaty had covered all Ireland's requirements on issues like tax and defence.

"There is no better deal to get - all our problems have been accommodated," he said.

The referendum is still there for the taking by either side
Declan Ganley, leader of anti-treaty Libertas group

He said the No campaign had been "successful in raising confusion and fears" and attacked the "sheer inaccuracy and absurdity of some of the claims - all designed to keep turnout down".

The PM admitted there was a core of about 500,000 people who had consistently voted No in such referendums and it was important to "get across that there are consequences to the No vote".

An opinion poll released on Sunday - the Red C survey for The Sunday Business Post - suggested that 42% backed the treaty and 39% were opposed.

A survey in the Irish Times on Friday had suggested 35% of people would vote No and 30% Yes.

Declan Ganley, the businessman heading the anti-treaty Libertas group, said the "referendum is still there for the taking by either side".

A key No argument is that the treaty cements EU power without providing accountability.

The Sinn Fein party also opposes the treaty, insisting it could be negotiated if it is rejected.

The Lisbon Treaty replaces the ill-fated EU constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.


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