A senior Government minister has defended Enda Kenny’s refusal to participate in referendum debates, insisting the Taoiseach was not running scared.
Quizzed as to what Mr Kenny was afraid of, Pat Rabbitte, communications minister, said: “I don’t think he’s afraid of anything.”
Mr Kenny has not participated in any of the televised debates on the fiscal treaty, despite claiming it is the “most important referendum for many years”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr Rabbitte said the Taoiseach had been canvassing “up and down the country” and that was where the campaign would be won.
It came as Mr Kenny admitted the treaty would not solve all of Ireland’s problems. However, in a televised address to the nation, he said it was “one part of the solution”.
Mr Kenny was offered the four-minute slot on RTÉ last night because Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams had devoted the same length of time to calling for a no vote in his televised address at his party’s ard fheis on Saturday.
Broadcasting codes stipulate that RTÉ must ensure equal airtime is afforded to both sides of the debate in such a scenario.
Mr Kenny said there were three “very positive reasons” to vote yes on Thursday.
He claimed a yes vote was the “best way of ensuring that the strong flow of investment in jobs continues and grows”. He said only a yes vote would give Ireland guaranteed access to Europe’s future bailout fund, the ESM, “should Ireland ever need it”.
And he said a yes vote would ensure that “good housekeeping rules are put in place so that responsible budgeting becomes the norm throughout Europe”.
Mr Adams said a yes vote would mean only more austerity and appealed to people to reject the treaty.
“Austerity isn’t working now and won’t start working on June 1. Neither will it bring stability or certainty... don’t write austerity into the Constitution.”
He said Mr Kenny would not even debate the issue and said the Government was instead trying to “scare people” into voting yes. “Whether it was British rule or a domineering Church hierarchy, Irish citizens have had enough of being ruled by fear,” said Mr Adams.
Prominent Independent TD Shane Ross announced he would also be voting no, arguing that the referendum should be postponed until EU leaders agreed on growth measures and the scale of the Greek crisis was known.
However, a succession of weekend polls indicated the yes side remained on track to win the referendum.
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