Belfast Telegraph

Higgins pressed for EU referendum

President Michael D Higgins will be urged to take the unprecedented step of calling a referendum if the Government rules against a vote on the new European treaty.

Amid claims Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his EU counterparts crafted the pact to avoid the electorate, 16 left-wing TDs vowed to lobby the former Labour man if a public vote is ruled out.

Under the never-before-used Article 27 of the constitution the president can call a referendum with enough support from the Dail and the Seanad.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle, who is spearheading the challenge, said they will turn to the head of state if Attorney General Maire Whelan rules there is no legal requirement for a referendum.

"Article 27 says a third of the Dail and the majority of the Seanad can petition the president not to sign an Act into law until a referendum has been held by the people," said Mr Pringle.

The group, comprising 16 Independent and United Left Alliance TDs, will need 55 signatures from Dail members to carry the petition.

"If you look at the number of Independents, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail, we make up 52 TDs," he said.

"But the constitutional requirement would be for 55 TDs to sign this petition, so we will be hoping for some Fine Gael or Labour TDs who, in the interest of democracy, will support our calls for a referendum."

Mr Pringle wrote to all members of the Oireachtas calling for their support and signatures for the Article 27 petition.

If agreed, the president will be required to consider the treaty with the help of the Council of State, which includes former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, as well as the Taoiseach and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. But the final decision comes down to him alone.

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