Ireland's Yes camp buoyant ahead of Europe vote

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The Independent Online

Ireland looks set to endorse the Lisbon Treaty on the future of Europe tomorrow, an outcome which will come as a huge relief to the establishments in Dublin and Brussels.

Tomorrow's referendum is likely to endorse the ratification of the treaty, reversing the result of last year's vote.

Much has changed in Ireland since June 2008, including the state of the economy. The disastrous slump in the past year may convince many voters that this is no time to endanger European goodwill by voting No.

The most recent opinion poll indicates a comfortable lead for the Yes side – 55 per cent of those surveyed intended to vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, while 27 per cent were against and 18 per cent were undecided.

Irish referendum campaigns are traditionally unpredictable but it would take a significant late swing for the treaty to be rejected. With all the main political parties campaigning in favour of the treaty, one of the government's principal themes has been that another No vote would dramatically reduce Ireland's influence in Europe.

"It would be seen as a retreat into economic isolationism and a spiritual withdrawal from Europe," the Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, said. The European Central Bank had provided a lifeline, he said, without which the country's financial system would have collapsed.

A collection of anti-treaty groupings have again mounted disparate but spirited campaigns, charging that Yes supporters are spreading "fallacies and half-truths" about Europe. They argue that endorsing Lisbon would not create jobs or help the economy.

The Yes camp respond that elements of the No campaign have spread lies, citing posters that claim Europe might cut the minimum wage from more than €8 (£7.3) to less than €2.

Since the last vote, Europe has given assurances to Irish voters to counter charges that a Yes result could endanger jobs, jeopardise Irish neutrality, lead to conscription for a new European army or introduce legal abortion.

Such allegations have been heard again but the assurances appear to have blunted their effectiveness.

The hugely unpopular government, led by the Fianna Fail Taoiseach Brian Cowen, has been pushing for a Yes vote.

Fianna Fail languishes with less than 20 per cent electoral support in the polls – 85 per cent of respondents say they are dissatisfied with its performance and many blame it for helping create the shocking economic conditions – but opposition parties have been appealing to voters not to punish the government with a No vote. The fear factor has largely changed sides.

In the first referendum, many voters were apprehensive about issues such as conscription and abortion. This time round, the fear is that voting No could affect the economy at a time when it needs all the help it can get.