BBC
30 May 2012

Irish voters are preparing to head to the polls to vote on whether to ratify the European Fiscal Treaty.

Rejecting it would prevent the country accessing any more emergency EU funding when its existing bailout package expires next year.

Ireland is the only one of 25 nations which is putting the fiscal pact to a national vote.

Opinion polls suggest a majority will vote Yes – though many where expected to decide at the last minute.

The BBC’s Mark Simpson, in Dublin, says the Yes camp fears people, angry with continuing austerity measures, will vote against the treaty to punish the government.

Complicated

The pact, signed by all EU members except the Czech Republic and the UK, allows EU member states to co-ordinate their budget policies and impose penalties on rule-breakers.

Signed in February, it commits all ratifying members to achieve budget deficits of less than 0.5% of economic output.

Last year, Ireland’s deficit reached 13.1% percent.

The country’s 3.1m voters have twice rejected European Union treaties – in referendums in 2001 and 2008 – though both votes were then overturned in subsequent polls.

Because of the treaty’s complexity, a high turn-out is not expected.

Those against the treaty argue that austerity is not working and suggest that the country should instead default on debts at five nationalised banks.

In a nationwide television address before campaigning ended, the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, urged people to vote in favour of the treaty.

“I ask you to make a further contribution by coming out to vote ‘yes’ on Thursday. Yes to stability. Yes to investment. Yes to recovery. Yes to a working Ireland,” he said.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who is campaigning against the treaty, told voters not to be fooled.

“Be wise. Join with the millions across Europe who are demanding an end to austerity. On Thursday, vote no.”

The party’s stance on the treaty has seen its support surge in recent weeks, making it the second-most popular party in the Republic of Ireland for the first time.

Results are not expected until late on Friday.

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