A CLEAR MAJORITY of Irish voters would support holding a referendum on whether Ireland should ratify the treaty establishing the EU’s new permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.
A Red C poll commissioned by EU Democrats, a Brussels-based alliance of ‘Euro-realists’, found that 72 per cent of voters were in favour of referring the treaty to the public for ratification.
21 per cent of voters were against holding a referendum, while the remaining 7 per cent of the 1,026 adults surveyed were unsure of whether they would like a ballot.
Voters aged between 25 and 34 were the most likely to favour holding a vote, with 82 per cent support for a plebiscite; voters aged between 55 and 64 were the least enthused, at 60 per cent.
Voters favouring Sinn Féin and independent or other party candidates were most likely to back a public plebiscite, with 87 per cent of Sinn Féin voters and 85 per cent of independents saying they would like a referendum.
While Fianna Fáil and Labour voters were also likely to seek a referendum – at 74 and 73 per cent respectively – Fine Gael voters were more divided on the matter, with only 52 per cent of voters supporting that party favouring a public referendum.
Former MEP Patricia McKenna, who chairs the People’s Movement affiliated to the EU Democrats, said the poll indicated that a “imple Dail vote will not suffice nor provide the democratic legitimacy necessary for such a far-reaching treaty”, and called on the Taoiseach to consider referring the matter to a referendum.
Respondents to the poll were questioned after pollsters read a description of the ESM treaty’s current provisions, including its requirement that Ireland provide €11.1 billion through a combination of up-front and “callable” guarantees.
Only 53 per cent of respondents said they were aware of the treaty’s existence in the first place, with older voters most likely to say they were aware of it, and younger voters professing not to have known about it.
Fine Gael supporters (63 per cent) and males (61 per cent) were more likely to say they were aware of the Treaty in the first place.
The figures given in support for a referendum reflect the answers of all respondents, and not just those who said they were aware of the Treaty before being briefed on it by the pollsters.
Independent TD Thomas Pringle is currently pursuing High Court action seeking to force a referendum on Ireland’s ratification of the ESM Treaty, believing its provisions may otherwise be unconstitutional.
Provided the Fiscal Compact is ratified later this year, the government intends to ratify the ESM Treaty in June, with the ESM due to take legal effect from July onward.
The terms of both the Fiscal Compact and the current draft of the ESM Treaty both dictate that access to ESM funding will be limited to countries who have already ratified the former treaty.