Ireland goes to the polls over EU treaty

The vote could scupper the entire European project
The vote could scupper the entire European project

Ireland is set to go to the polls today in a crucial referendum on the European treaty.

It is a pivotal moment for Ireland, which holds the destiny of the entire EU project in its hands. The treaty must be accepted by all states or it becomes null and void.

All three main political parties held a joint press conference yesterday in which they urged the public to go and vote for the Lisbon treaty, but as the vote begins experts are still unable to predict the vote.

There will be a moratorium on media coverage today by the two sides.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has spearheaded the yes campaign, but a wide and varied coalition of no activists is threatening to drown him out.

Different groups are concerned the treaty could threaten Ireland historical neutrality and even its anti-abortion stance. Sinn Fein, the only significant party to oppose the treaty, believes Ireland could do better if it renegotiated.

But Mr Cowen says the treaty will place Ireland in the heart of Europe and solidify Ireland's position as a reliable investment location.

"As taoiseach, it is my deeply held belief that the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is crucial to this country's future prospects," he told reporters at Fianna Fáil's final press conference.

The battle to get the treaty accepted is being given serious importance with past and present Fine Gael leaders gathering in Dublin yesterday to make the case.

The campaign was thrown into irritation and confusion on Monday when French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said Ireland would be the first to lose from a No vote given it had "counted greatly on European money".

Today's moratorium comes from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and is intended to achieve fairness and balance in the decision.

The referendum comes a day after peers in the House of Lords killed off a last-ditch attempt by Conservatives to provoke a similar vote in the UK.

Labour and Liberal Democrat peers voted against the proposal by 62 votes.

The vote means the treay can be ratified next week, unless, of course, the Irish kill it today.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.