For the second time of asking, the Irish are to vote on the Nice Treaty which paves the way to EU enlargement.
The first time they voted, the answer was no thanks, so there's to be a second referendum.
The doubters are being constantly reminded that the Irish economy has soared of late, and since joining the EU in 1973 Ireland has received a net total of more than 30 billion Euros.
But as they prepare to count the Irish ayes, is it right to hold a second vote at all? Ben Geoghegan reported.
Thank you, I'll definitely be voting
"Yes" next week.
See ya, lads. Hello, how are
you. Good to see you again. Hello?
UNNAMED WOMAN 2:
Are you voting "Yes", Sinead?
If you want to know how
ashamed the Irish government
was when the country voted "No"
to Nice last year, take a look at the
junior foreign minister, out on the
campaign trail. He's been telling
people that what's a stake is
nothing less than their reputation
as good Europeans.
Certainly a sense of embarrassment,
it would be, certainly. If you think back
at it their were all the parties, business
leaders, the trade union movement
all the establishment were behind
the "Yes" vote. Yet we didn't
manage to pull off a victory.
The "Yes" camp believe they lost
last year as EU enlargement failed
to capture the imagination. So now,
after a 700% increase in the
government's referendum budget,
they're doing everything they can
to draw people in. But so are the
"No" campaigners. A poster war
has broken out in Dublin - no-one
can claim they haven't noticed this
UNNAMED WOMAN 3:
A little song about being against
Nice. Have a nice day.
Wherever you go it's difficult not to
be bombarded with propaganda from
one side or the other. Whichever way
it goes, people aren't gonna be able
to argue they haven't been told about
It's also a campaign
which has sparked a new interest
in song-writing. This track from
the "No" side, asks why the Prime
Minister refused to listen to voters
last year when they rejected the
Well, he offered us a treaty
Started talking to us sweeetly
We rejected it completely
Now he's asking us again....
In attempting to be good Europeans,
have the Irish government turned into
bad democrats, where only one answer
The turnout at this meeting in
Trinity College Dublin seemed to confirm
that there is more interest in the
referendum this time round. But the
"No" camp say people shouldn't be
asked to vote again.
One of the biggest tragedies of this
campaign is that we are having a re-run
of the exact same question in relation to
the Nice treaty that was put to us last time.
The Irish government feels no need
to apologise for trying again to offer
former communist states the chance
to share in the EU's wealth.
BRIAN LENIHAN TD:
I was deeply ashamed of the result in
the last referendum. It didn't do us credit
as a country at all. We should be welcoming
in a further ten small and medium size
powers instead of concentrating on details,
instead of giving the impression that we are
people that took the money and ran.
The Nice Treaty paves the way for
ten new members to join by 2004. But
it also changes the way decisions are
made. What the "No" camp claim
is that the changes will weaken the
voting strength and overall influence
of smaller nations and give more power
to countries like France and Germany.
One way or the other we are going to
loose and not just us but the other
member states that can't keep up. It's
not just Ireland, there will be a number of
member states in the EU who will not be
able to keep up with the faster powerful
members of Europe and particularly with
the new countries coming in they will surely
be in the slow lane. That changes the way
Europe has operated up to now where every
member state had a legal equality, that
equality will be removed with Nice.
Whichever way they vote, the Irish
will emerge from this experience as
some of the best-informed Europeans
when it comes to understanding the
many issues bubbling around this
referendum. They've spent weeks
now, arguing about its effect on Irish
neutrality, immigration, women's rights
and privatisation. But by the end of this
debate, the audience was pretty equally
UNNAMED WOMAN 4:
My gut reaction is that the attitude that
politicians have are leading me to want to
vote "no" again, simply because of the way
the Irish people are being treated.
The issues of the referendum have not
changed. It was a good treaty then, it's a
good treaty now. I hope people will be more
informed in general. The debate tonight is
more energised than before. I will be voting
There's no criticism of me in this report and
I've no questions to answer regarding the
But as well as weighing up the technical
arguments of the treaty, politicians
have been trying to embarrass the
Irish Prime Minister over the Flood
Report, which followed a corruption
inquiry involving a member of Mr
Ahern's last government. The report
concluded that Ireland's former
Foreign Minister, Ray Burke, received
a corrupt payment from builders
looking to develop land. Mr Ahern
says he appointed him in 1997
because he believed there was no
truth in the allegations. The report
was published three weeks ago and
is now a bestseller. Some on the
"Yes" side believe Mr Ahern's
reluctance to answer questions
about the affair could affect the
outcome of the referendum. Senior
members of Mr Ahern's party are
now trying to make sure people
don't use tomorrow's vote as a way
to punish the Taoiseach
What I would say to them is what I
am saying to them and have been
saying to them it's, "Look, if you feel
like taking to out on the Government
over any one of the issues that are
there, put your feelings aside on this
referendum and store it up for the local
elections and the European elections
that will be coming down in the next
One group of "No" campaigners has
also been distracted from the main
issues after one of their spokesmen
admitted he'd been to meetings
with a right-wing group in
Germany. But he's denied any
links with them.
This building site
isn't on the usual tourist route
through Dublin. But visiting
officials from the countries
wanting to join the EU are brought
here to see the advantages of
membership and get advice on
how to apply for funds.
like this one, are dotted all over the
countryside and are a constant
reminder to people in this country
over just how much this country has
benefited from being in Europe.
sewage treatment plant is one in a
long line being paid for by European
funds. This will cost about £110 million.
And the campaigners say this "yes"
issue is a moral duty. That the Irish
people have a duty to make sure all
the benefits they've had over the last
30 years are now offered to other
countries as well.
Could the whole
enlargement project be toppled if
Ireland votes "No"? The Czech
Foreign Minister has been in Ireland
to ask people to open the door to
membership. And the Czechs aren't
the only people who see enlargement
as the end of their journey to democracy.
First, we became a member of NATO,
which was a very important step. In the
case of Poland, the Czech Republic and
Hungary. And now we want to complete
this process of reunification with Europe.
Re-entry, coming back into Western Europe,
by our membership of the European Union.
And this will be the end of this, let's say post
Riali (unchecked) arrangement. We want it to
end with our membership of the European
But there have been other visitors
during this campaign, including young
people from outside Ireland who've
been telling people to vote "No". They
support EU enlargement but they
claim that the Nice Treaty will
make them second-class members
of a two-tier Europe.
We will lose our equality in Europe.
In Slovenia, lives just two million people,
and I'm afraid the foreign factor is
companies will buy everything in our
country. I'm really afraid of that.
And we'll be known just as European.
Because it's just as bad to say that this
is a bad treaty for the whole of Europe,
not only for Ireland, but the applicant
countries. So, of course, Ireland, as the
only people voting should be voting "no",
of course they should.
The big unanswered question of this
referendum is whether enlargement
could go ahead without the Treaty.
The "No" campaign says it could.
The junior minister says it's very
Certainly, as far as we are concerned,
we have said it and I think we can stand
over the fact that there is no plan B and
there's nothing but a black hole there if a
"no" vote wins on the day.
Tomorrow, Europe will watch as Ireland
decides whether the EU follows the road
set out by the Treaty or embarks on a new
This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.