Belfast Telegraph

Treaty referendum a one-off: Kenny

The referendum on a European treaty to tighten budgets is a one-off, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted.

Amid ongoing speculation that a "Yes" vote is more likely if the bank bailout costs are slashed, a series of ministers have insisted that the Fine Gael-Labour coalition is united on the issue.

Mr Kenny said Irish voters would not be asked to vote again if they rejected the Brussels plan first time round.

"This is an opportunity for Ireland to say 'Yes, we want to continue to be a central part of Europe'," he said. "As this treaty does not require unanimity there is no veto involved here. So it's a once-off and when the Irish people make their choice, that's it."

The Taoiseach reiterated that the referendum is separate from other political matters, including a debt write-down after the two issues were repeatedly linked.

Questions have been raised over whether the Government should adopt a tougher line in negotiations on reducing the cost of the bank bailout after Social Protection Minister Joan Burton twice linked the referendum to cutting the debt burden.

Her Labour colleague Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, however suggested the matters should be kept separate and that negotiations on cutting costs were ongoing over several months.

Mr Kenny, who was in his home town of Castlebar, Co Mayo, said Irish voters are pragmatic and a "Yes" vote was about protecting Ireland's future.

"(The treaty) requires, if you like, good housekeeping, a better way of conducting our business at home and abroad and when we get on the European train on January 1 2013 that we are clear that that's a journey to a better, brighter future for everybody, including job opportunities and the growth agenda," he said.

The fiscal compact has been signed by all members of the Eurozone with Ireland the only state requiring ratification by referendum. It is not a European Union treaty in the official sense as it is not supported by Britain and the Czech Republic. A referendum was ordered on advice from Attorney General Maire Whelan but no date has been set.

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