Merkel delays ratification but Kenny vows to plough ahead
THE Taoiseach's officials last night insisted the EU fiscal-treaty referendum is still going ahead at the end of the month, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel delaying ratification by her country.
The German Bundestag looks set to postpone its vote ratifying the treaty until June, as Ms Merkel struggles to get the majority of parliament to pass it.
The vote, scheduled for May 25, is now poised to be kicked to touch until late June to allow economic-growth measures to be added to the package.
EU leaders will meet in a fortnight to discuss jobs and economic-stimulus plans to be tacked on to the treaty.
But the Government remains "resolved" to proceed with the referendum on May 31 and ruled out any question of postponing the referendum.
"It is an Irish question for the Irish people. We believe the certainty a Yes vote can provide for potential investors is extremely important.
"It is for other jurisdictions to decide how and when they ratify," Mr Kenny's spokesman said.
However, Independent TD Catherine Murphy said the referendum should be put back.
"Irish people must be allowed to wait and see if Francois Hollande's demand for growth-boosting measures is included in the pact before they make such a crucial decision," Ms Murphy said.
Mr Hollande, the French president-elect, yesterday vowed to stay out of the Irish debate on the EU fiscal-treaty referendum.
During his election campaign, Mr Hollande said he would not ratify the treaty "as is", and is insisting on measures to promote economic growth to accompany the treaty.
His election has led to calls for Mr Kenny to postpone the referendum, but the Government says Mr Hollande understands the need for fiscal discipline through the treaty, as well the need to drive growth.
The pair spoke for the first time yesterday in an early morning telephone call.
"We had a good conversation," Mr Kenny told the Dail. "President-elect Hollande is sensitive to, and cognisant of, Ireland's concerns and is aware that our people will vote by way of referendum on May 31 on the text of the treaty as signed on March 2, 2012, and agreed by 25 countries.
Mr Kenny will meet Mr Hollande for the first time at an EU leader's summit in Brussels .
Independent TD Shane Ross said a "growth compact" could come out of the summit, and claimed Ireland would be voting in a vacuum just over a week later.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams last night challenged Mr Kenny to a televised referendum debate after the Taoiseach acknowledged him as the leader of the No campaign.
Mr Adams accepted an invitation from broadcaster TV3 to take part in a head to head debate two days before the country goes to the polls on May 31.
But Mr Kenny has yet to decide if will accept the challenge, and his spokesman said the TV3 invitation is under consideration.
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