Belfast Telegraph

Pro-treaty text taken off website

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has bowed under intense pressure and removed pro-treaty speeches from the Government's referendum website.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition now faces potential legal action from Sinn Fein which has written to the Attorney General and called for a chance to scrutinise copies of a referendum booklet being sent to the public for fear it may not be impartial.

As the Taoiseach and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore launched separate attacks on Sinn Fein because of its campaign for a No vote, Government insiders scrambled to save face over the online information site.

Speeches from Mr Kenny, Mr Gilmore and Minister of State Lucinda Creighton promoting a Yes vote for the European stability deal were taken down to adhere to a rule that bans taxpayers' money being used to promote one side over another.

But Mr Kenny still defended the website, insisting it contains only facts without being biased.

"It's important we, from a Government perspective, we give the people the facts and explain what that means," said Mr Kenny during a grilling by the Sub-Committee on the Referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty. He also pointed out that the impartiality rule in question, the McKenna Judgment, does not come into effect until the referendum order is signed on Monday.

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald argued that the Government is undermining the work carried out by the independent Referendum Commission by launching what she described as a "partisan" website.

John Bruton, former taoiseach and president of the International Financial Services Centre Ireland, pledged his support to Mr Kenny. He said refusing to ratify the European treaty would have an adverse effect on Ireland because foreign investors would lose confidence if it was cast adrift from Europe.

"To use the analogy of a household, advocates of a No vote are asking us as a household to take our custom away from the credit union, of which we are a long-standing member and which is helping us through a bad patch, and to place our fate in the hands of the moneylenders and loan sharks," said Mr Bruton.

Mr Kenny confirmed that 2.2 million euro has been give to the Referendum Commission to fund the campaign, but any individual political party measures will not be paid out of the public purse.

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