Thursday 22 February 2018

Bruton gaffe on second vote forces a flurry of denials

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE Government last night scrambled to deny that there would be a second fiscal treaty referendum if ireland voted no, after a gaffe by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton.

Five official denials -- including one from Mr Bruton -- were issued within an hour of the Dublin North Central TD saying "Ireland will be looking to say 'can we vote again'", when asked if there was a 'Plan B' if the referendum is defeated.

Mr Bruton, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Health Minister James Reilly, Agriculture Minster Simon Coveney -- also Fine Gael's director of elections -- and the Government's official spokesman all said there will be no second vote.

However, No campaigners were quick to pounce on the remarks, with Declan Ganley's Libertas claiming it meant people can vote No and ask the Government to get a better deal on banking debt.

Mr Bruton's slip-up came during a debate hosted by broadcaster Matt Cooper on Today FM, when he was asked if there are any plans in the event of a No victory.

"I suppose I will have to say that we will need access to this fund and Ireland will be looking to say can we vote again, because we will need access to this fund. We will have a crisis on our hands."

Corrected

Later, in the same broadcast, Mr Bruton corrected himself. "There is no question of a second vote on this. I'm retracting what I said. The Government has made it clear there will be no second vote."

Mr Bruton released a further statement last night saying, "in the heat of a debate", he dealt with the question badly and "may unnecessarily have caused some confusion".

"The reality is that in the event of a No vote, Ireland will be in a very grave situation, "he added. "We will face serious questions about where we will access the funding we need to pay for public services, and I believe the Irish people will be looking to say -- where will we get that funding?

"Let me be emphatic: there will be no second vote. We're either in or we're out, and the Irish people will make their decision on the 31st of May."

Meanwhile, division erupted in the Yes camp last night with Labour getting the blame for the huge number of undecided voters.

At their weekly referendum meeting yesterday, Fianna Fail TDs complained that Labour wasn't doing enough canvassing because they were taking flak for unpopular Government decisions.

The blame for the 35pc of undecided voters revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent Millward Brown Lansdowne opinion poll was placed at Labour's door -- which FF claims could lead to the Yes side losing.

The poll also showed just 59pc of Labour voters are for the treaty, with 41pc against.

Fianna Fail director of elections Timmy Dooley said they were getting reports of Labour TDs not canvassing door-to-door as Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore promised.

"There was concern based on the poll that the undecided had increased and there is worry that Labour in particular are not in a position to campaign actively on the ground," Mr Dooley said.

Health spokesman Billy Kelleher also said Labour TDs are "thin on the ground", but these claims were rejected by Labour.

Labour tried to play down its failure to get supporters to vote Yes. Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said the poll showed the breakdown of support nationally was reflected in the Labour figures.

A spokesperson for Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who is Labour's director of elections, rejected Fianna Fail's claims.

"We have canvasses going on every day, led my ministers, TDs and senators and by MEPs out in constituencies knocking on doors," the spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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