Insults traded as Lisbon vote nears

Insults traded as Lisbon vote nears

Lisbon Treaty supporters and opponents clashed today trading insults and accusing one another of spreading lies to win votes in the looming referendum.

With just two days to go until the all-important poll both the yes and no sides scrapped in last ditch bids to win over undecided voters.

While the Taoiseach branded Friday’s ballot a defining moment for Ireland, anti-treaty campaigners slammed the Government for claiming the controversial charter would help boost the economy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin led the charge on controversial posters and campaign slogans suggesting Ireland’s minimum wage – the second highest in Europe at €8.65 – could be slashed to €1.84 if the treaty is passed.

“That was a reprehensible poster, absolutely untrue,” Mr Martin said.

The Minister said it had become a major issue on the doorsteps and urged those behind the claim to withdraw it.

“That was the biggest lie out there,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s not too late for the people responsible to withdraw it and apologise for putting it up.”

Anti-treaty campaigner and Libertas chief Declan Ganley, widely praised for the no campaign success last year, claimed there was no basis to the yes side’s core argument about Lisbon creating jobs.

“It is not true. The whole campaign has been based, posters, everything, on jobs and the economy and it is a false claim,” the millionaire businessman said.

The pair clashed with opponents during a live radio debate in the window of Arnotts department store on Dublin’s Henry Street – one of the capital’s busiest city centre shopping areas.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen visited laboratory supplier Carl Stuart in Tallaght, south Dublin, to push for a yes vote where he met workers and toured the plant.

The Taoiseach’s visit was briefly interrupted as he took a mobile phone call from newly re-elected German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The sprawling suburb is in the heart of the Dublin South-west constituency which recorded the largest no vote in last year’s referendum.

Later Mr Cowen used the launch of a biography on former Taoiseach Sean Lemass, who opened Ireland to foreign trade in the 1950s and led the country’s failed first bid to join the EEC in 1961, to push the yes card again.

He said it was imperative that Ireland does not give the impression it is turning its back on Europe.

“Friday’s referendum on the Lisbon Treaty will be a defining moment in the country’s destiny,” the Taoiseach said.

“The road we choose will not only determine the shape of our economy, but define our place in the wider world and the destiny of this generation and our children’s generation for years to come.”

The Taoiseach was heckled and called a traitor by two activists as he entered the launch in central Dublin.

Meanwhile, 54 leading businesses, lobby groups and retired senior civil servants offered their support for the yes campaign claiming it was essential for Ireland’s economic recovery.

The groups represent every major business organisation in Ireland including the American Chamber of Commerce, Chambers Ireland, Irish Business Employers Confederation, Irish Exporters Association and the Small Firms Association.

Several top business figures have also called for a yes vote including Intel vice president Jim O’Hara, Smurfit chief Gary McGann and Microsoft managing director Paul Rellis.

The mayors from Dublin’s four local authorities backed the treaty arguing Ireland’s economic and social interests lie with the EU.

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