FINE GAEL made one last push for a yes vote in tomorrow’s referendum on the Lisbon treaty, with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny claiming Ireland now faces a “moment of truth”.
Mr Kenny, was joined by predecessors Michael Noonan, Alan Dukes, Dr Garrett Fitzgerald and through a pre-recorded video message, by John Bruton.
The involvement of the five leaders, past and present, was also meant to galvanise party supporters, many of whom have voiced ambivalence or opposition to the treaty.
Mr Kenny said lessons had to learned from a “difficult” campaign and he expressed disappointment that a date for the referendum had not been set sooner, allowing the no side to begin making claims that were only now fully rebutted.
Dr Fitzgerald agreed it had been a “difficult campaign” and that those opposed to the treaty had been given “a long run in” which had confused voters.
“Those who are trying to defeat this have had a long time to invent all kinds of arguments,” he said. “It is easier to worry people than reassure them.”
Some arguments posited by the No side, such as claims by the Socialist Party that the treaty would lead to the nationalisation of certain services, had been “badly based” and were “without foundation”.
Alan Dukes claimed some were opposed to the treaty because they saw it was a “neo-conservative conspiracy”, while others viewed the treaty as “an excessively collectivist conspiracy”, adding: “Neither of them is right.”
Michael Noonan said it had been the most difficult campaign he had worked on, but he was now confident that the treaty would be carried “by a significant number”, despite those opposed to it, including the under 25s, of whom he said it was now fashionable to vote against Europe; those with a pro-life position; and a “celebrity fashionable elite that for the first time seem to be voting no”.
Mr Noonan claimed: “It is difficult to present, on the yes side, the big idea, the one that you can campaign for and get people to vote for.”
Mr Kenny said his party would work until 10pm tomorrow to secure a yes vote, and the bigger the turnout, the stronger the approval for the treaty.
In his recorded video message, John Bruton stressed the new powers that would be given to national parliaments under the treaty, and claimed it would also help EU nations to tackle cross-border crime more effectively, particularly drug-related crime.
Mr Bruton added that the EU had been “the most successful peace process” in the world and that Ireland could not put aside the work of other countries.
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