The Government was last night frantically trying to get its campaign for a yes vote in the May 31 referendum back on track after a potentially disastrous gaffe by a senior minister who said there could be re-run if the fiscal treaty is rejected.
In a radio debate on the treaty, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton was pressed on whether Ireland had a plan B to deal with a no vote given Government assertions a rejection would lock the country out of a second emergency EU bailout.
Mr Bruton said: “I suppose I will have to say that we will need access to this fund and Ireland will be looking to say can we vote again, because we will need access to this fund.”
Asked if he meant a second poll, he said: “I’m saying that we will have a crisis on our hands and we will face a really, really difficult situation in funding ourselves. That’s the reality.”
Immediately after the Today FM debate, both Mr Bruton and Simon Coveney, director of Fine Gael’s referendum campaign, insisted there will be no second vote no matter what outcome emerges from the ballot.
Mr Bruton said his comments “may unnecessarily have caused some confusion… Let me be emphatic; there will be no second vote. We’re either in or we’re out, and the Irish people will make their decision on May 31”.
Mr Coveney issued a statement saying “under no circumstances will there be a second vote on the Stability Treaty”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s spokesperson also tried to limit the damage, saying: “There will be no second vote. The treaty can be ratified without us.”
No campaigners seized on the comments as proof of an underhand Government agenda.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty branded Mr Bruton’s remarks as “an outrage and an affront to democracy”.
“It is clear that the Government is intent on bullying the people into accepting a treaty that is detrimental to their interests.”
Earlier, the Government claimed that major investors are holding back on pumping money into Ireland until a yes vote is secured in the referendum — a move dismissed as more evidence of Government scaremongering by no campaigners.
Leo Varadkar, the transport minister, said potential backers for joint road and rail developments were concerned about the implications of a no vote.
“The vote is very important on the transport side because I am trying to conclude agreements to invest in railways and roads and they are all 30-year contracts, particularly the public-private partnerships.
“When I meet funders and investors, they ask me if we conclude this 30-year contract with you to build this PPP road will you pay us back in euros — are the Irish people actually committed to the euro or not?”
Meanwhile, a Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the Irish Independent has found a loss of support for both Government parties.
Fine Gael’s support was 34%, down two points from the general election. Labour’s support is down four to 15%. Fianna Fáil’s held steady at 17% while Sinn Féin’s rose seven points to 17%. The poll also found a satisfaction rating of just 29% for the Government while 65% said they were dissatisfied.
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