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Cowen insists no third-time lucky if treaty rejected again

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night definitely ruled out a third Lisbon Treaty referendum or a change of Government if there is a 'No' vote.

In his final plea for a 'Yes' vote tomorrow, Mr Cowen claimed that passing the Lisbon Treaty would mark the first step in Ireland's road to economic recovery.

And he said that a 'No' vote would lead to a period of uncertainty and that a two-speed Europe could follow.

When asked if failure to pass the treaty would prompt a change of Government, Mr Cowen responded: "Absolutely not."

"There won't be a Lisbon Three -- that's for sure," he said at Fianna Fail's last press conference before tomorrow's vote.

"I think what's clear is that we would face into a period of extraordinary uncertainty in Europe and for Europe in terms of the direction it would take.

"You could well see the development of a two-speed Europe. Several people have speculated on that. At a time of major economic challenge, what we need is stability and certainty in the direction which Europe is taking."

The Lisbon Treaty represents a "painstaking consensus" which has been built up for many years between 27 countries, Mr Cowen said.

Rejecting suggestions that the FAS controversy could affect the outcome of the vote, Mr Cowen said he believed voters were separating the issues and examining the treaty on its own merits.

Other issues would be dealt with in the following weeks, he told the conference which was attended by a huge contingent of international media.

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"I believe that the people of Ireland see this treaty as being about their future. It is not about a particular issue or controversy of the day.

"It's about their future. People want to look to the future and they want to secure their futures," Mr Cowen said.

"We're better working together rather than being brought to the margins which a 'No' vote would provide for."

Recovery

He added that tomorrow's vote was not a "politics as usual" issue. "It's not about me, it's not about a party or a Government.

"It's about the people deciding are we going to continue to have full engagement," Mr Cowen said.

"That's the issue on Friday. There are other issues which are for next week and other weeks."

The Taoiseach said that two out of every three jobs in Ireland were dependent on European markets and that Ireland needed to be part of the decision- making process which affected us. "The first step in economic recovery, we believe, is in adopting this treaty," he said.

In his opening address, Mr Cowen said a 'Yes' vote will send "a powerful signal" to investors that Ireland remains at the heart of Europe. The stakes tomorrow could not be higher, he said.

The vote centres on whether Ireland wants to move forward with Europe or take an uncharted and more uncertain road, he added.

"It is an irrefutable fact that every time Ireland has voted to support the development of the EU, our country has benefited.

"Our infrastructure, both material and social, has thrived through our engagement with the European Union," he said.

"Our confidence and sense of self has blossomed and we have seen that we can compete and win with the best in all aspects of our lives."


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