Coveney says treaty vote 'a one off'

Fri, May 18, 2012, 01:00

The May 31st referendum on the fiscal treaty will be a “one off” regardless of the outcome, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking today after Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton was forced to retract a comment suggesting the referendum could be rerun in the event of a No vote, Mr Coveney said the situation was different to when the electorate was asked to vote twice on the Lisbon and Nice treaties.

“This isn’t like Nice and Lisbon. In Nice and Lisbon, for Europe to move forward, we needed to have unanimity and in other words every country needed to ratify,” he told RTÉ Morning Ireland. “There was a lot of pressure on Ireland when we said No…”

Mr Bruton last night admitted he had dealt badly with a question put to him during a Today FM debate about the referendum being rerun in the event of a No vote.

“I suppose we will have to say that we will need access to this fund and I think Ireland will be looking to say can we vote again, because we will need access to this fund,” Mr Bruton said initially.

Later in the debate Mr Bruton said there was “no question” of a second poll in the event of a No vote on May 31st. Today FM presenter Matt Cooper put it to the Minister he had said the opposite earlier.

“I’m retracting what I said. There’s nothing wrong with being honest. Government has made it clear that there will be no second vote and I just want to clarify that. This is a debate. We can all make mistakes,” said Mr Bruton.

In a written statement last night Mr Bruton tried to clarify matters further and admitted: “In the heat of a debate, I dealt badly with a question, and may unnecessarily have caused some confusion.”

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said Mr Bruton’s initial comments were “an outrage and an affront to democracy”.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle, who is campaigning against the treaty, this morning said he did not accept that Mr Bruton had made a mistake as his comments were put forward in a “considered” fashion when responding to a question.

“I’m surprised but not shocked by them because I don’t expect Fine Gael and Labour to be any different to what Fianna Fáil have been in the past,” he said. “The intention is clear that if the people vote the wrong way the Government will force the issue again.”

Mr Pringle said he believed the only thing Mr Bruton had done incorrectly was to make the comments on the record.

Responding to Mr Pringle, Mr Coveney said the matter of a second referendum had been discussed at Cabinet and that the Government’s decision was “this will be a one off referendum”.

Mr Coveney said he believed Mr Bruton had been unclear about the matter but had been attempting to say that the public might come to regret a No vote.

“I can be clear this morning, there won’t be a second vote on this,” he said.

Mr Coveney said the fiscal treaty did not need to be ratified by every EU member state and that three countries had already done so.

“If we decide to vote No the Government won’t like that because it makes everybody’s job much more difficult and I think it makes Ireland’s challenges more difficult but we’ll have to accept it. It will be a democratic decision and we will have to deal with the consequences.”

A new opinion poll on the fiscal treaty today showed undecided voters were shifting slightly towards voting No.

The Red C/Paddy Power poll showed that 50 per cent of likely voters intended to vote Yes, 31 per cent said they would vote No and 19 per cent were yet to decide.

When undecided voters were excluded the Yes side secured 62 per cent of the vote and the No campaign 38 per cent.

Another poll earlier this week found that 37 per cent of voters saying they would vote Yes, 24 per cent saying they would vote No, 35 per cent undecided and 4 per cent not voting.

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