A clutch of senior GAA figures, including Cork football manager Conor Counihan, his Dublin counterpart Pat Gilroy, and Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody, are supporting a yes vote in the fiscal treaty referendum.
They have agreed to be patrons of Alliance for Ireland, a civil society group of political, business, NGO, trade union, and sporting figures campaigning for treaty ratification.
The alliance, whose director is former European Parliament president Pat Cox, launched its campaign in Dublin yesterday.
Mr Cox said Ireland was in “intensive care” and a yes vote would create greater certainty and ensure access to the EU’s future bailout fund, the ESM.
Chairman Brendan Halligan said the alliance was an entirely voluntary one and that its budget would be “under €10,000”.
For that reason, its campaign would be “far less elaborate” than in previous referendums, but members would make up for this with “our enthusiasm, time and campaign experience”.
The pair were joined at the launch by representatives of IBEC, the IFA, and Chambers Ireland, among others.
The GAA managers were not present but were listed as patrons, along with other sporting figures such as former rugby star Denis Hickie and former champion athlete and current Fine Gael senator Eamonn Coghlan.
Mr Halligan, a former Labour general secretary, expressed himself satisfied with the yes campaigns being run by the coalition partners.
But Mr Cox acknowledged that the Government’s credibility would take a hit if the referendum were defeated.
“For sure, this has high political stakes, and there’s much riding on it for the Government and its future credibility — there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But it’s a bigger issue than for politicians alone.”
Mr Halligan, meanwhile, said that he stood over language in the alliance’s leaflet which referred to members of the no campaign who wanted to stop gay marriage and abortion as “fundamentalists”.
Separately, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty challenged the Government to produce figures on what a yes vote would mean for the country.
The Government has rejected Sinn Féin’s claims that ratification will result in an additional €6bn in austerity measures after 2015.
But Mr Doherty said: “If the treaty is passed, we will have to reach a structural deficit of 0.5% after we exit the current troika austerity programme in 2015.
“According to the Department of Finance’s own spring forecast published last week, the structural deficit in 2015 will be 3.5%. The gap between this figure and the new 0.5% rule is equivalent to approximately €6bn. The Government has a responsibility to explain to the voters where they will get this money from.”
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