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Crisis for Cowen as 'No' vote surges

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Brian Cowen campaigning for the 'Yes' camp in Limerick yesterday

Brian Cowen campaigning for the 'Yes' camp in Limerick yesterday

Brian Cowen campaigning for the 'Yes' camp in Limerick yesterday

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is facing a massive setback with a new opinion poll showing the 'No' vote has raced ahead in the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign.

Mr Cowen has told the Irish Independent he will accept responsibility for the outcome of the referendum as he called on voters to "enthusiastically vote 'Yes'" as the treaty is about "trying to secure jobs".

But he's facing an enormous uphill battle -- in his first political test as Taoiseach -- after the poll shows the 'No' vote is now five points ahead of the 'Yes' vote for the first time. The 'No' vote has nearly doubled in the past three weeks, jumping dramatically to 35pc from the previous 18pc.

In a remarkable swing, the 'Yes' side has dropped five points to 30pc, ahead of the June 12 referendum.

The referendum is still all to play for, however, as there are still 35pc who are 'don't knows' or who won't vote. But this figure will cause greater concern to the 'Yes' side, as there has been a tendency in previous referendums for voters who don't know to either stay away or vote 'No'.

When the 'don't knows' are excluded, the 'No' side holds an eight point lead of 54pc to 46pc.

The 'Yes' campaign headed by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party are expected to blitz the electorate with messages focusing on the economic importance of passing the Lisbon Treaty over the remaining six days.

The parties will now hope the realism of the referendum actually being defeated will spark their supporters and undecided voters into backing the treaty.

But the momentum is now quite clearly with the 'No' camp ahead of next Thursday's polling day. Fianna Fail sources said the poll was a major wake-up call for the 'Yes' camp and the electorate at large.

"It's still there to be won, but it's going to hard to win it," a source said.

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"It's a wake-up call and the people of Ireland will have to realise if this doesn't go through there will be emigration again. Jobs, jobs, it's all about jobs and about working to get jobs in the future."

Worse

Fine Gael sources said the result was "worse than anybody expected".

Despite the surge against the treaty, the 'No' campaign group, Libertas, was not getting carried away by the poll by TNS mrbi.

"Obviously we are taking the poll with a pinch of salt and we won't take the Irish people for granted. We are now prepared for a barrage of personal attacks and the 'Yes' campaign will make it a war on credibility as they have failed to convince people on the treaty.

"We believe the referendum is still there to be won by either side," a spokesman said.

Today, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will hold events focusing on the economy.

FG leader Enda Kenny will join former European Commissioner Peter Sutherland to warn of the economic consequences of the Lisbon result.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and European Affairs Minister Dick Roche will also be pressing the economic case for a 'Yes' vote.

Mr Cowen is also going on the offensive and emphasising the economic message.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, the Taoiseach says he will accept responsibility for the outcome of the Lisbon Treaty referendum as he passionately appeals to voters not to put the economy at risk.

He says the uncertainty of a 'No' vote will be damaging to the country's future prospects in "challenging economic times".

But the Taoiseach accepts the buck stops with him -- both at home and abroad -- if a 'No' vote is delivered.

Paddy Power have put the 'No' vote at 8-13 favourite, compared to 3-1 against up to teatime yesterday.


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