Bruton raises prospect of second treaty referendum

The Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has raised the prospect of a second referendum if we reject the Fiscal Treaty on May 31.

Mr Bruton said delaying the referendum would put Ireland in the same category as Greece.

Asked how the Government would explain a 'No' vote to its colleagues in Europe, Mr Bruton said Ireland might be seeking the option to vote on the treaty a second time.

Opponents to the treaty have said the only way to get the Government to delay ratification of the deal is to vote 'No'.

Nigel Farage from the UK independence party has said Ireland is being asked to accept a treaty which is likely to change when the referendum is over.

Leading anti-treaty campaigner Declan Ganley has said he would support a second referendum on the European deal if revisions are made to Ireland’s bank debt.

The businessman also warned the Government to play its cards close to its chest before signing a blank cheque for Europe and ratifying the fiscal deal.

He said Ireland should not accept the treaty before it knows what new French president Francois Hollande has up his sleeve in terms of an added growth stimulus.

“There’s a saying to do with poker: ’You’ve got to know when to hold them, and you’ve got to know when to fold them’,” said Mr Ganley.

“What Enda Kenny wants is to fold our cards on May 31 and hand them over.

“We need to hold and we need to wait and see their cards first. We need to see what sort of deal France and Germany are going to propose to solve this European crisis, which is getting worse by the day.”

French finance minister Pierre Moscovici confirmed today that France will not ratify the European treaty as is and that it must entail a growth strategy.

Mr Moscovici, who was speaking publicly for the first time since his appointment, also addressed concerns that France may go soft on budget discipline, saying tackling the public debt and reducing deficits should be fundamental to Europe’s plan.

Mr Ganley, who led Ireland’s revolt against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, said while a postponement of the referendum at the end of the month is not possible, the country should delay making its decision until it knows details of the growth deal by voting “No”.

“If we have a deal on the bank debt and if we have a serious roadmap to democratic accountability in European institutions, then I would support a second referendum,” he went on.

The Libertas founder, who delivered a book to the pro-treaty Taoiseach entitled 52 Great Poker Tips At Home, At Tournament and Online, warned that Ireland should also be weary of Mr Hollande’s intentions for tax harmonisation.

He said plans announced by the President’s adviser yesterday that he may push for Ireland to hike its relatively low 12.5% corporation tax rate to match other European countries could result in all investment flowing towards the heart of the eurozone.

“There is no advantage being in peripheral economics if the tax rates are the same,” said Mr Ganley.

“We need to know that first before signing a blank cheque and handing it over to our partners in Europe to do whatever they want.”

Earlier, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore shot down calls for a delay to the referendum from Shane Ross.

The Independent TD hoped to have a Bill passed in the Dail permitting the postponement of polling day to give Irish voters more time to make up their mind on the treaty.

But Mr Gilmore insisted a Referendum Commission ruling that the date could not be changed was final and that sticking to the original plan would send a message of certainty to Europe that Ireland is determined to be part of its recovery and growth plans.

This comes after a new Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the Irish Independent showed that 35% of the electorate is still undecided about which way to vote in two weeks’ time.

Some 35% said they would vote in favour of the treaty, which aims to impose stricter budgetary rules across member states and drive down deficits; 24% intend to vote against it; and 4% have no intention of voting.

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