Belfast Telegraph

Hollande 'respects Ireland issues'

French president-elect Francois Hollande has no intention of interfering with Ireland's referendum on the European treaty, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted.

The two leaders have spoken by telephone where the incoming head of state in Paris made it clear that he understands and respects the need for Irish voters to have their say on the fiscal pact.

Mr Kenny said: "President-elect Hollande is fully sensitive and cognisant of the concerns of Ireland; of the fact that our people are holding a referendum on May 31 on the text of the treaty signed on March 2 and agreed by 25 states."

The Taoiseach, campaigning for a Yes vote, said the referendum at the end of the month is more important than a general election because its impact will be much longer-lasting.

He said it is Ireland's decision alone as to whether it ratifies the stability treaty which aims to enforce stricter budgetary rules in eurozone states.

"It's the Irish people's decision alone. It's not another country, any other nationality or any other people who are voting," said Mr Kenny.

Mr Hollande, the Socialist party candidate who topped outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy in the polls at the weekend, said before the election he would try to have the text of the treaty amended.

He said if he were elected, France would refuse to ratify the fiscal deal unless further measures for growth and job creation were written into its framework.

This, coupled with political instability in Greece and the Netherlands, has led to uncertainty about the treaty's future and, as a consequence, has called into question the need for Ireland's referendum on May 31.

The Government has continually insisted that the public vote will be held regardless of politics in other eurozone states.

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