Howlin: Yes campaign must redouble efforts

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has said the Yes campaign for the referendum on the fiscal treaty must redouble its efforts after a poll showed 35% of voters are undecided.

The Labour man dismissed results suggesting only 59% of his party's supporters plan to vote in favour of the European deal, saying there has been a good internal debate on the issue.

"People are hurting out there. We are very conscious of that," said Mr Howlin.

"There is a feeling we need to lash out sometimes. We need to redouble our own efforts to re-energise people to understand the significance of a Yes vote for them."

The latest opinion poll showed 37% of the electorate plan a Yes vote on polling day, 24% will vote No, 35% are undecided and 4% do not plan to vote.

When the undecideds are excluded, the Yes side stands at 60% and the No side at 40%.

The figures in the Millward Brown Lansdowne survey for the Irish Independent found large support from Fine Gael voters for the treaty, with 85% saying they will vote Yes on May 31.

Only 59% of Labour supporters were convinced by the party's Yes campaign, trailing behind Fianna Fail, which had backing from 72% of its supporters.

Leading opposition to the treaty, Sinn Féin has the support of 80% of its voters, who have pledged a No vote to what the party has described as an "austerity treaty".

Mr Howlin said there are a lot of women and young people, who are largely Labour voters, who have yet to be engaged on the issue.

"The 60-40 divide represents the country at large," Mr Howlin told RTÉ. "Labour voters represent the 60-40 divide in the country because there's a good internal debate."

He said it was "heartening" that up to 60% of the electorate are planning to vote in favour of the European treaty, which aims to strengthen budgetary rules across member states and drive down deficits.

Recovery for Ireland, investment and confidence are all predicated on a Yes vote, the minister added.

Mr Howlin dismissed suggestions that Labour has a relatively low backing from its supporters due to the trade unions largely advocating a No vote.

He said he had dealt with many of the unions personally and explained to them that the treaty would help deliver growth.

"They want to hear alternative strategies," said the minister.

"I've dealt in particular with Siptu, the biggest union in the country. They want a stimulus plan. They understand we need discipline in our finances but they want to hear that there is a broader, over-arching strategy as well. We've explained that to them."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is on the campaign trail in Galway today, drumming up support for the Yes side, where he is expected to be met by anti-treaty protesters.


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