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A first for Fine Gael as party to lead EU campaign

FINE Gael and the Labour Party will get going this week on their fiscal treaty referendum campaign -- the first time the parties are actually in power for an EU vote.

The latest polls show a substantial lead for the Yes vote, but European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton warned against any complacency.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin ticked off Taoiseach Enda Kenny about "conflicting messages" from government ministers on the referendum.

Thus far, the coalition partners have muddled their communications on:

• What's actually being voted on.

• Any link to a deal on banking debt.

• Whether there could be a second vote.

Although the party has always campaigned for Yes votes in the previous eight EU referenda, this is the first time Fine Gael has actually been in power for an EU vote.

Likewise, Labour called for a Yes vote in every referendum, aside from the first vote on joining the then-EC in 1972, but has also always been in opposition.

Fianna Fail will fight for a Yes vote from the opposition benches for the first time.

Senior figures in Fine Gael will meet this week to begin planning their Yes campaign.

Labour already has an information leaflet designed and gone to the printers for their TDs, with an initial 250,000 leaflets to be ready tomorrow.

Party sources say they expect to spend up to €100,000 on the campaign, but are still strapped for cash after last year's election.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Oireachtas European affairs committee chairman Dominic Hannigan will play prominent roles for the party.

Fine Gael, as the largest party in the country, will be under enormous pressure to take responsibility for the lead role in the Yes campaign.

Canvassing

Following the publication of polls showing a Yes lead, Ms Creighton said there was a huge amount of work still to be done on the referendum and no room for complacency.

"It's positive to see at this stage there is a majority of people in favour. But it's only a snapshot," she said.

Mr Martin said his party would be actively canvassing on doorsteps for a Yes vote.

He was critical of the messages coming from government ministers, including Mr Kenny's claim the vote was about remaining in the euro.

"People need to be very clear, focused and specific in terms of the question that's put before the people -- which has to be the fiscal treaty question," he said.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said it would be "foolish" to vote against the treaty because it would leave Ireland without an insurance policy as the country would not be allowed access to the permanent EU bailout fund.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin said action will be taken if former deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv campaigns against the treaty during the forthcoming referendum.

"Given that the party has taken a position on this, in terms of supporting the treaty, it would not be acceptable that someone would campaign against the treaty," he said on RTE's 'The Week In Politics'.

Pressed about whether all TDs would be expected to support the party line, he added: "Yes, absolutely."

Irish Independent