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Friday 19 January 2018

High Court rejects Sinn Fein Referendum Commission move

Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty. Photo: Collins
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty. Photo: Collins

Lyndsey Telford

A SENIOR Irish Government minister has accused opponents of the European fiscal treaty of desperate scaremongering after they lost a legal challenge over the role of an independent advisory body.

Sinn Fein attempted to secure a retraction from the Referendum Commission over remarks it made about the possibility of Ireland using a veto to block a proposed new bailout fund - the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Foreign Affairs Minister and deputy prime minister, said it was a last-ditch attempt to cause confusion among the public, with polling in the referendum opening tomorrow morning.

Mr Gilmore said: "I believe that this was a stunt by Sinn Fein in the final days of their campaign to maximise their own publicity and in order to create confusion just as the broadcast moratorium was about to come out."

The High Court dismissed the lawsuit this morning.

Ireland is the only country in Europe holding a referendum on the treaty as it is obliged to put major EU reforms to the public test according to the Constitution.

Only three states have ratified the treaty in full - Greece, Portugal and Slovenia - while six others have begun the process including Germany, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Austria and Denmark.

The ratification must be completed by the end of the year.

Ireland has an unpredictable record in European referendums, having rejected the last two at the first vote only to accept in a re-run the following years.

Government ministers have been at pains to warn that this time there will be no second vote. The treaty will come into effect with the support of 12 states regardless of the Irish stance.

With less than 24 hours until voting, the Tanaiste accused Sinn Fein of putting their own party politics before the public.

He accused the party of a last throw of the dice to garner publicity.

"It was a last desperate attempt by Sinn Fein to cast doubt on the independence of the Referendum Commission, which has been throughout this campaign providing independent information to citizens who want to check assertions that had been made by one side or the other," Mr Gilmore said.

Meanwhile, with success or failure delicately hinged on the turnout figures, Mr Gilmore declined call the vote.

Around 3.1 million people are eligible to vote on whether Ireland should ratify the European deal, which will see stricter budgetary rules imposed on member states and penalties for those that fail to meet them.

The objective of the treaty is also to keep a control on deficits and ensure greater checks and balances are in place for money in and out of each country.

The Tanaiste continued to echo Taoiseach Enda Kenny's claims, and those from the entire Yes camp including the Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail parties, that ratification will ensure Ireland has access to emergency funds from Europe should it require a second bailout.

He said the most important thing now to secure a Yes vote from the public was to make it clear just how much Ireland stands to benefit from supporting the deal.

"We are going to continue working right up to the end of polling tomorrow evening, asking every Irish citizen to vote Yes," Mr Gilmore said.

"This is important for the country. Passing this treaty is an important step on this country's route to recovery."

The Taoiseach has said he is confident but never over-confident before polling.

Joan Burton, the Labour Party's Social Protection Minister, said earlier today that she is confident of a Yes vote.

Earlier, the Tanaiste ruled out any possibility of the Government calling for a second referendum should the anti-treaty side be victorious.

A total 25 of the 27 European Union states have accepted the text of the treaty - with the exception of the UK and Czech Republic.

Only 12 of those 25 countries need to ratify the deal for it to be implemented, so even if Ireland rejects the treaty it could still come into force provided enough states support it.

Despite initial support, the deal has encountered some obstacles following a number of political shake-ups across Europe.

Newly-elected French President Francois Hollande took a different stance from his pro-treaty predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and warned his government would not ratify the deal unless amendments are included on growth.

Details of a new stimulus plan that is to be stitched into the treaty are expected to be formally considered at the next Euro summit in June.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to postpone her country's ratification of the deal after she was unable to get majority support in the Bundestag.

Press Association

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