Belfast Telegraph

Minister in EU treaty poll blunder

A Government minister has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after suggesting there could be a second vote on the European fiscal treaty.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said he made a mistake when claiming the Government could hold another referendum, should the deal be defeated in the May 31 public vote.

"There is no question of a second vote on this, I'm retracting what I said," said Mr Bruton. "There is nothing wrong with being honest. The Government has made it clear there will be no second vote. I just want to clarify that. This is a debate. We can all make mistakes."

The minister was taking part in a debate on the fiscal treaty on Today FM when he slipped up.

He originally claimed that Ireland had a Plan B in case the public rejects the treaty - to seek another vote. But Fine Gael's director of elections Simon Coveney insisted a second referendum will not take place.

He said that while the Government continues to encourage people to vote Yes, the public's decision at the end of the month will be final.

A new Millward Brown Lansdowne poll for the Irish Independent showed that 35% of the electorate is still undecided about which way to vote in two weeks' time.

Some 35% said they would vote in favour of the treaty, which aims to impose stricter budgetary rules across member states and drive down deficits; 24% intend to vote against it; and 4% have no intention of voting.

Later, in a statement, Mr Bruton said he had dealt badly with a question during the radio debate and caused unnecessary confusion. "The reality is that in the event of a No vote, Ireland will be in a very grave situation," he said.

"We will face serious questions about where we will access the funding we need to pay for public services, and I believe the Irish people will be looking to say 'Where will we get that funding?' Let me be emphatic: there will be no second vote. We're either in or we're out, and the Irish people will make their decision on May 31."

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