Treaty vote will be once-off, insists Coveney

Discussions have taken place within Fine Gael and in cabinet on whether the referendum on the fiscal compact could be held a second time.

But Fine Gael’s director of elections Simon Coveney said it’s “absolutely clear” the treaty vote will be a “once-off”.

The Government continued its efforts to limit any damage that might have been caused to its campaign for a yes vote after Jobs Minister Richard Bruton’s howler during a Today FM debate on Thursday when he said there could be a re-run of the referendum if it was rejected.

Agriculture Minister Coveney said “it was a mistake and it caused great confusion” but pointed out Mr Bruton had clarified the position before the debate ended.

“It’s very unlike him to be unclear like this,” he said. Mr Coveney said whatever decision is made by the electorate on May 31 “this Government will have to respect that and deal with the consequences”.

Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, who is urging a no vote, said Mr Bruton’s comments show the Government cannot be trusted: “Whether he made an honest mistake or not is beside the point.

“It just shows what the Government is, just living in its own world, living in a bubble.”

Independent TD and no campaigner, Thomas Pringle, said Mr Bruton had not made the comments in “the heat of the moment” and they were made in a “quite considered way”.

He said Mr Bruton had done the public a favour by revealing the Government’s position. “The intention is clearly there that if the people vote the wrong way for the Government they will force the issue again.”

The possibility has been discussed by the main government party, Mr Coveney said on Morning Ireland.

“We’ve had this discussion within Fine Gael as to wether this vote could be asked a second time,” he said. “The position is absolutely clear: This is not a vote that we have time to have a second time or that we want to have a second time.”

Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, said a bill proposed by Deputy Shane Ross to postpone the referendum is “both unconstitutional and a dangerous precedent”.

But Mr Shatter said the Constitution would be “completely undermined” if the Dáil was to “arbitrarily cancel” a referendum once initiated.

Mr Shatter said: “The Referendum Commission has already stated that the Referendum cannot be postponed by the Government.”


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