Burton defends Labour’s late start to treaty

Joan Burton has defended the fact that Labour has yet to officially launch its campaign for a yes vote in the fiscal compact treaty referendum.

Coalition partners Fine Gael launched their campaign last week, as did Fianna Fáil, and the major no side groups did likewise ahead of the May 31 vote.

Labour is not holding its official campaign launch until tomorrow. This is in spite of research for the Government following last year’s Oireachtas inquiries referendum pointed to the need for longer, more in-depth campaigns.

For future plebiscites, the research academics Michael Marsh, Jane Suiter, and Theresa Reidy argued “the campaign should be developed over a longer period of time”.

Ms Burton, the social protection minister, insisted Labour’s campaign was already well under way, with postering, canvassing, and leafleting all taking place.

“Remember, the average general election campaign is three weeks and, in a way, we’ve had a long campaign and a short campaign,” she said in an interview with the Irish Examiner.

“Our short campaign is the three weeks before voting. Our long campaign started two weeks ago and I think we are probably the first party with a lot of posters up, judging certainly around Dublin.”

She played down suggestions that Fianna Fáil activists would neither canvass for nor support the treaty out of a belief they had been used as a “punching bag” by the Government.

Ms Burton, who is Labour’s campaign director for the referendum, said the treaty was above politics and that the Fianna Fáil leadership recognised that.

She pointed to a “very cordial meeting” involving the Fine Gael, Labour, and Fianna Fáil leaders and campaign directors last week.

“I think there was a very strong consciousness by everybody in the room that this referendum is not about party politics, it’s about doing the best for the country, and the best for the country is a yes vote,” she said

The parties will run “parallel and complimentary campaigns, in which inevitably there will be a lot of co-operation”.

She made light of suggestions that Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore appointed her campaign director so that she could not criticise him if the campaign failed.

“Well, I mean, you’re much closer to this chat than I am. Nobody has whispered that in my ear,” she laughed.

She stood over Michael Noonan’s claim that a no vote would mean a harsher budget in December, despite Ireland being fully funded until the end of 2013 under the existing bailout.

“Yes, because he would have to take into account the trajectory forward of the budget over a number of years, because, of course, under current EU rules we basically have to budget for, if you like, a triennial outlook.”


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