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Government denies treaty leaflets call for 'Yes' vote

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DCA Warriors protesters outside Leinster House yesterday.

DCA Warriors protesters outside Leinster House yesterday.

DCA Warriors protesters outside Leinster House yesterday.

THE Government is planning to deliver two separate leaflets on the EU fiscal treaty to every house in the country -- but denies that it is breaching the ban on using taxpayers' money to promote a Yes vote.

The Coalition insists that the leaflets are "factual and purely information" and do not advocate a Yes vote.

A government spokesperson said the campaign was "information, rather than advocacy" and therefore did not contravene the McKenna judgment, which prevents taxpayers' money being spent to promoting a particular vote. But Sinn Fein is to seek legal advice on whether the campaign breaches the judgement.

The text of the leaflets has been cleared by the Attorney General Maire Whelan as not calling for a Yes vote. However, even the title of the leaflets, referring to the "Stability Treaty", is bound to cause controversy as No campaigners are calling it the "Austerity Treaty".

The treaty is officially called the "Treaty on Stability, Co-ordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union" and the Government argues that it is shortening the title for the leaflet.

"The word 'stability' is in the treaty. The word 'austerity' isn't," a spokesperson said.

The text of the treaty and the explanatory booklet will be 40 pages long -- 20 pages in Irish and 20 in English. It will be delivered to the 1.8 million homes in the country next week.

A second leaflet with "further information" will be delivered nearer to polling day.

The Government is spending €2m on its information campaign and argues that the public will have more information than ever before.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday called on Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams to explain his party's alternative to the treaty, the consequences of a No vote and where it would get the money to fund public services.

The largest public sector union is set to back a Yes vote, despite other major unions pushing for a No vote.

IMPACT, which has 63,000 members, is expected to come down in favour of the EU pact at a meeting tomorrow, although senior officials feel voters are "caught between a rock and a hard place".

Nonetheless, it is likely to become the first major union to back the treaty, just days after Tanaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore raised the prospect of a threat to public sector pay if the referendum is thrown out.

Unions

Sources said his remarks may mobilise other public sector unions to follow suit due to uncertainty if the "cheque stops coming from Europe", while the Croke Park deal's guarantees run out after 2014.

Today, the umbrella group of unions, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, will decide on its stance.

Last night, Public Service Executive Union general secretary Tom Geraghty revealed he will back the treaty at the meeting. There will be deep divisions between the key players at the meeting of the 31-member executive council of the ICTU.

Senior sources said they did not expect that consensus could be reached. This could mean that ICTU would make a recommendation based on a vote of the council members -- or decide it will not make a recommendation and leave it to each union to make its own decision.

UNITE and SIPTU have declared their decision to support a No vote due to the prospect of further austerity, despite being affiliates of the Labour Party. Mandate is also advocating a No vote.

A Yes stance by IMPACT would be a major boost to the Government, following the No from SIPTU, the country's largest union. Its support for the treaty would be likely to feature heavily at its biennial conference in Killarney, which will be attended by the Taoiseach less than two weeks before voting day on May 31. Sources said the union was likely to adopt the same position as ICTU general secretary David Begg, who appears to be moving towards backing the treaty.

Irish Independent