Kenny pays tribute to Bruton over admission

Sat, May 19, 2012, 01:00

RERUN CONTROVERSY:TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has paid tribute to “the courage and the manliness” of Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton for admitting his mistake in suggesting in a radio interview that a second referendum on the fiscal treaty could be held.

At a press conference yesterday after the European People’s Party meeting in Killarney, Co Kerry, Mr Kenny rejected suggestions that Mr Bruton might be withdrawn from the front line of the campaign because of his gaffe.

Mr Kenny reiterated the Government’s intention of having only one referendum even if the treaty is defeated on May 31st. The fiscal treaty obliges member states to keep budget deficits and public debts within tight limits.

“Let’s be categorically clear about this. This is the only opportunity that the Irish people will have to vote on the fiscal stability treaty,” said Mr Kenny.

During the debate on Today FM on Thursday night, Mr Bruton raised the prospect of a referendum rerun in the event of a No vote. The faux pas happened when the Minister was asked if the Government had a plan B in the event of a No vote.

Mr Bruton said: “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”. He later retracted what he said.

Mr Kenny said Mr Bruton had had the courage to admit a mistake. “We all make mistakes in life; we make mistakes in politics. We have never put forward the view that we are 100 per cent right on each occasion.”

Asked if he would take part in television debates on the treaty, the Taoiseach said: “I participate in live debates in Dáil Éireann. . . every week.”

Between now and polling day, he would campaign up and down the country and added: “I have never been afraid to debate the issues of this treaty with anybody.”

Mr Kenny said that one of the reasons for voting in favour of the treaty was that it would guarantee access to the European Stability Mechanism. “No gives a consequence to which we don’t know the answer,” he added.

During a canvass in Dublin Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins accused Mr Bruton of arrogance for suggesting the referendum would be rerun in the event of a No vote.

“The fact that he came out and said that we’d have to vote again if the money was needed just shows the mindset. Minister Bruton portrays a reflex arrogance on behalf of the Government. The automatic reflex is that if the Irish people go against the Government then they must be dragged back to vote a second time and to get it right,” said Mr Higgins.

If the Irish people voted No, he said, the Government would have to go to Brussels and say the Irish people were revolting against austerity.

“The ESM draft treaty has to be changed to take out the clause that says you have to agree to the austerity treaty to apply for funds,” he said.

Socialist MEP Paul Murphy encouraged people who had not paid their household charge to vote No.

“The treaty is falling apart in many different countries in Europe,” said Mr Murphy, who added that a No vote here would add to the momentum against the pact and bring it down.

Trade unionist Blair Horan, who is campaigning for a Yes vote, accused Sinn Féin spokesman Eoin Ó Broin of attempting to mislead the public by claiming that Ireland would still be able to access ESM funds if there was a No vote.

“This is simply wrong and smacks of desperation,” said Mr Horan.