Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland referendum could sink EU crisis deal

By Ben Chu

The Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, said the Republic of Ireland might be forced to hold a referendum on the new EU "compact" agreed in Brussels last week.

"We don't know at this stage," Mr Noonan said in London, before a meeting with the Chancellor, George Osborne. "Our legal people won't be able to call it until we see a text, because it's a fine legal position in Ireland.

You have to go to the people if it requires constitutional change." Irish officials warned that the public, experiencing a severe austerity drive, would be most unlikely to vote "yes" to a new EU treaty.

The Republic is pushing for the new deal to be limited to avoid triggering a referendum that could create a new shock to the fragile eurozone if it were lost.

The Republic of Ireland is legally bound to hold a referendum on any agreement that alters the Irish constitution.

The Irish public rejected the EU's Nice Treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, although both were accepted in later referendums.

Mr Noonan said: "We have won every referendum that has been put to the people, though on occasion we had to have two goes at it. I certainly wouldn't like a replay."



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