Sunday 18 March 2018

Varadkar claims referendum option not democratic

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar says he's not "a fan" of referendums since he doesn't think they're "very democratic".

Mr Varadkar was speaking yesterday after an opinion poll showed 72pc of Irish people want to vote on whatever fiscal treaty is agreed by EU leaders in Brussels later today.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny travels to Brussels this morning for the summit where the fiscal compact, which will introduce tough new budgetary rules, is expected to be signed off on.

Once it has been finalised, it will be sent to Attorney General Maire Whelan, who will give the Government advice on whether a referendum is needed.

But Mr Varadkar yesterday said he was generally not in favour of referendums, since the main proposal could get mixed in with other controversial issues.

"I don't think referendums are very democratic,' he told RTE Radio. "By and large, referendum campaigns are never about what they are supposed to be about." The Dublin West TD said any vote on the fiscal treaty could get mixed up with opposition to issues such as cutbacks and paying bank bondholders.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he wasn't surprised by the Red C poll for the 'Sunday Business Post', which showed 72pc of people want a referendum.

"I'm not at all surprised by that," Mr Gilmore said. "It's a very good thing the people want to be involved in the decisions that are being made."

But the same poll showed that any referendum had only a slim chance of passing, with 40pc of voters in favour of the treaty, 36pc against it, while 24pc don't know.

Mr Kenny is also expected to canvass EU leaders on the margins of the summit on efforts to bring the Ireland's borrowing costs down.

A government spokesman last night said the summit would also discuss "immediate action" to be taken in the areas of youth unemployment, the single market and small and medium businesses. It was reported over the weekend that €82bn of funds would be allocated by the EU to promote jobs and growth.

Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore defended Mr Kenny's remarks last week that people went "mad borrowing" during the boom.

In his first comments since the controversy erupted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Gilmore said: "I think it is a bit unfair, frankly, for an individual phrase to be taken and a big storm to be brewed up over it. What we have to do now as a country is focus on getting ourselves out of the recession."

Irish Independent

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