Irish Vote to Support E.U. Fiscal Treaty Could Be at Risk

Irish government support falls in advance of referendum

With support for the current Irish government falling, an upcoming referendum on acceptance of the latest European Union fiscal treaty could be at risk as support for the opposition rises.

Reuters reported that a poll conducted Friday on support for the government indicated that the Irish are growing even more disenchanted with those in office. Satisfaction with the government, according to the poll, an Irish Times poll conducted by IPOS/MRBI, has fallen by 14 percentage points to 23% since the last poll in October.

On the other hand, support for Sinn Fein, the former political arm of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that is campaigning for a vote against the treaty in the referendum, has risen to 21%. That is the highest it has ranked in an Irish Times poll. Perhaps even more worrisome, however, are the results of a Thursday poll that indicated 40% of voters are still undecided on how they will cast ballots on the treaty.

While Irish citizens, unlike those in most other European countries, can vote on any major transfer of powers to Brussels, as the recipients of a bailout, they could put the country into a bind if they vote down the treaty and its fiscal rules. However, they have done it before—twice in fact, rejecting the last two treaties until they won concessions.

Despite the fact that he has pushed through tough fiscal measures, Prime Minister Enda Kenny is still the most popular political leader in the country. He has, however, lost 10 points in the polls, now sporting an approval rating of 42%. His party, Fine Gael, has lost less ground but was less popular to begin with; it is down 3 points to 33%.

If the Labour party loses more ground to Sinn Fein, as it has recently, it could also make it more difficult for unpopular tighter austerity measures to be passed.

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