The finding is deeply disturbing and underlines the challenge facing the commission, its chairman Mr Justice Tom Finlay said.
Equally alarming, said Mr Finlay, is the fact that just 28% of people under the age of 24 intend to vote. “In spite of a previous referendum on the issue and considerable media discussion, levels of understanding remain unacceptably low,” Mr Finlay said.
The Green Party said the survey proved the Government was failing to alert the public about the true nature of the Nice Treaty. The party’s Nice Treaty director, Paul Gogarty, said the Government had created a scaremongering smokescreen to obscure the valid arguments against the Treaty. He called on the Government to debate the issues honestly on TV with the No camp.
Socialist Party deputy, Joe Higgins, said it was not surprising that only 16% of the electorate say they understand the contents of the Nice Treaty. The Government and the EU had failed to spell out the concrete implications of the Treaty, Deputy Higgins claimed.
“The suspicion is that the Government doesn’t want to do this, as many people might find the actual proposal explained in a very concrete way to be deeply disturbing.”
But a Government spokesman rejected this claim and said 1.4 million information booklets have already been sent to every household in the country. In addition, the National Forum on Europe is touring the country to allow people to ask questions about the referendum, he said. Meanwhile, the Taoiseach yesterday promised the biggest campaign since the original EU campaign in 1972 for the forthcoming Nice referendum.