Kenny avoids answering when asked about rerun


REFERENDUM:THE TAOISEACH has declined two opportunities to affirm that there will be no repeat referendum on the European Stability Treaty if the Irish electorate rejects it first time around.

Mr Kenny was pressed on the issue at a news conference in the Belgian capital yesterday at the end of a two-day summit of European Union leaders.

“I never contemplate defeat,” he said, when asked if Ireland’s membership of the euro zone would be threatened by a majority vote against the treaty.

The Taoiseach did not respond to questions as to whether a second vote would take place if the treaty were defeated on the first occasion.

“I have signed the treaty. That signature obviously depends upon ratification now and that’s a question for the people. The treaty is due for ratification by January 1st, 2013,” he said.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade had said last Tuesday there would be only one referendum on the treaty. “A second chance doesn’t arise,” Mr Gilmore said.

Mr Kenny was asked yesterday if he was concerned about the implications for the referendum campaign of the divisions on the treaty between senior Fianna Fáil figures Micheál Martin and Éamon Ó Cuív.

“The matter that has erupted within Fianna Fáil is a matter for the Fianna Fáil party to sort out for themselves.

“I welcome the decision of the leader of the Fianna Fáil party to support the referendum and to support it strongly,” he said.

Responding in Irish to a Raidió na Gaeltachta reporter, Mr Kenny said: “People will be focusing on the question that will be on the ballot: ‘Do they wish to participate in the European community and the euro and the euro zone from now on, or do they not wish to be’.”

Observers noted that this would be a departure from the normal text of a constitutional referendum. A Government spokesman said later: “The actual wording has yet to be decided.”

The spokesman added: “It has been stated consistently that if there was a requirement for a referendum then one would be held and it would serve the function of ratifying the treaty.”

Stressing the importance of the treaty to ensure access to the European Stability Mechanism, the Taoiseach said: “It’s like an insurance policy on your house that you might never have to use, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if for some reason it were to be used.”

Commenting on the general tone of the summit, Mr Kenny said: “This actually was a very constructive, very normal council meeting without the usual steam that might be associated with these kinds of meetings.

“This morning I signed the new stability treaty on behalf of Ireland, which is another important step in the recovery of our country and also for Europe.

“It will put in place, as you are aware, a framework for responsible budgeting which I think is important and it will help to restore confidence in our economy which is the euro and our collective ability to manage that successfully. I gave heads of government around the table an understanding yesterday evening of how the process applies in Ireland and the response of the Attorney General to the agreed wording in respect of the treaty, and the process that followed from that and how we notified the Oireachtas of holding the referendum.

“Essentially I have to say that this was received by heads of government in a really understanding way, in that they recognised that this is a choice that the Irish people have to make for themselves now,” Mr Kenny said.