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'Yes' side fears large swing among undecided voters

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Kitty Bunnetta Ody and Robyn Neilan clown around in front of a mobile Fianna Fail 'Yes' to Lisbon ad yesterday

Kitty Bunnetta Ody and Robyn Neilan clown around in front of a mobile Fianna Fail 'Yes' to Lisbon ad yesterday

Kitty Bunnetta Ody and Robyn Neilan clown around in front of a mobile Fianna Fail 'Yes' to Lisbon ad yesterday

THE 'Yes' campaign yesterday appeared to be facing a battle to capture more than a quarter of voters who are undecided on the Lisbon Treaty, with fears that the 'No' campaign would benefit from a low turnout at the polls.

Although the 'Yes' side is still ahead at 41pc, the 'No' campaign has gained five points to 33pc. Crucially there are still 26pc of voters undecided with less than three weeks to go -- many who may not bother to vote at all.

This is remarkably similar to an opinion poll shortly before the first Nice Treaty referendum Treaty in 2001 -- when 27pc of voters had no opinion.

Ultimately, only 35pc turned out to vote and this low figure was blamed for the 'Yes' side's embarrassing defeat.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin admitted yesterday that a "lot of people" still had to make up their minds on how they would vote.

He insisted the 'Yes' campaign would be taking nothing for granted, with Fianna Fail determined to avoid embarrassment for new leader Mr Cowen.

Battle

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who canvassed supporters attending the Laois vs Offaly hurling championship match in Portlaoise yesterday, is due to campaign on his party's "battle bus" in Blanchardstown, Dublin today as the 'Yes' campaign prepares for an intense appeal to voters' hearts and minds.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who climbed up onto a lorry to launch his party's latest pro-Lisbon billboard yesterday, said he was encouraged that the Red C poll showed support for the Lisbon Treaty hardening.

But he admitted that "there has been a slight narrowing in the gap".

"A number have gravitated to the 'No' camp. So the clear lessons is that we have to redouble our efforts between now and referendum day," he said.

Former Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald and Minister for Europe Dick Roche have both warned during the campaign that a low turnout is the greatest threat to a 'Yes' vote on June 12. The 'No' vote remained almost the same in the second Nice Treaty referendum in 2002 but the 'Yes' vote was boosted when the turnout rose to 49pc and the treaty was passed.

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However, Sinn Fein Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald said despite campaigning for a 'No' vote, her party was looking to maximise voter turnout in the referendum, and she called for more public debate on the content of the treaty and its implications for Ireland.

"Today's Red C poll results are encouraging for the 'No' campaign, but clearly neither side of this debate can be complacent with a significant percentage of the electorate remaining undecided," she said.

Despite criticisms by Minister Lenihan of the "nonsensical slogans" of the 'No' camp, anti-treaty group Coir said that Luas adverts, a YouTube feature and a fresh flood of posters would appear this week.

It said that volunteers would be meeting voters "anywhere we can grab the opportunity to talk to people about the key flaws in this treaty".

Labour launched the latest phase of its Lisbon campaign yesterday by sticking a 'Yes' sticker on the bronze statue of Countess Markievicz, who served as Minister for Labour in the first Dail in 1919. Its deputy leader Joan Burton said that women should realise that they had already benefited from the EU in areas such as equal pay and would benefit more under the Lisbon Treaty.

According to the poll, Fine Gael voters are almost evenly divided between the 'Yes' and 'No' sides.

The party's Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell said: "By voting 'No' we would put any prospects of a common defence agreement in danger. If a common defence goes ahead without Ireland influencing its design we would then have to provide properly for our own defence here at home, and that would mean spending a higher proportion of our GDP on defence."


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