Roche rejects calls for early vote in second Lisbon referendum

EUROPEAN Affairs Minister Dick Roche has backed away from calls for an early vote on the second Lisbon referendum despite growing support for a yes vote.

Yesterday a poll found 51% of people would vote in favour of the Lisbon treaty if the referendum was held now. The Cabinet is considering scheduling the vote a lot sooner than the tentative October date.

However, yesterday Mr Roche said, while he appreciated Fine Gael MEP Colm Burke’s argument that an early yes vote would improve economic stability, he would not like to see it held in June.

“I don’t think I would have it with the June elections,” he said.

The Government has still to receive the text of legal guarantees currently being negotiated through the Council of Ministers legal secretariat. And if the Government moves on an early referendum it will be mindful of contaminating the debate with its battle with trade unions.

Workers’ rights was a major concern according to a post-referendum survey, however, this was not the subject of a legal guarantee.

Yesterday ICTU (Irish Congress of Trade Unions) said it had not decided on its strategy and will wait on the outcome of its current dispute, on the breakdown in social partnership, and the wording of the guarantees. ICTU called for a yes vote last June, while SIPTU remained neutral.

Mr Roche told Newstalk’s Lunchtime with Eamon Keane one of the problems with holding the referendum in June was it would be unfair to other parties.

“I don’t think it would be fair to expect Fine Gael and Labour and The Greens and other parties to go out and campaign for a yes for that and they’d be campaigning against the Government on other issues.

“I believe that a referendum which stands alone, so that the Irish people can make the judgment on the guarantees is critical.”

Labour Party spokesman on European affairs Joe Costello said it would be foolish to rush into a referendum on the basis of yesterday’s poll. He said, until the legal guarantees were published and digested by the public, there were too many unknowns to risk a referendum.

Despite the growing support for Lisbon, the Irish Times TNS/Mrbi survey found 16% were undecided.

Declan Ganley of Libertas said it should not matter how the agreements were phrased. Mr Ganley, who is trying to expand his anti-Lisbon message across the Union, said guarantees will not change the treaty’s text.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the treaty remained a bad deal and it would be cynical of any politician to exploit economic uncertainty to force a quick vote.

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