Ireland on course to approve EU treaty

Irish voters appear to have backed the European Union’s Lisbon reform treaty, government and opposition officials said on Saturday.

Monitors counted votes following Friday’s referendum on a treaty that would streamline decision-making in the 27-country bloc and give it more global clout. It needs the approval of all member states to go into force.

”I am delighted for the country. It looks like a convincing win for the ‘Yes’ side on this occasion,” Foreign Minister Micheal Martin told national radio.

Richard Greene, a spokesperson for the Coir group which opposed the treaty, said: ”It looks like a ‘Yes’ vote. I want to sympathise and commiserate with all our people who put in a great effort for the love of their country.”

State radio RTE reported that early tallies from counting centres showed constituencies such as Dublin Central and Dublin North East had voted 56% in favour while in Galway city early indications put the ‘Yes’ vote at 63%.

”We are extremely disappointed that the voice of the people was not heard the first time around,” said Greene, whose group is one of the most visible opponents of the treaty.

The vote followed warnings from celebrities, politicians and business leaders that a second ”No”, after a rejection last year, would ruin Ireland’s reputation as it battles recession.

Many voters were thought more likely to back the treaty second time around because of the economic crisis, during which EU aid has helped curb its impact.

The mood at the main Dublin counting centre was a far cry from last year, when officials watched in disbelief as voters rejected the reform charter, holding up the foreign policy ambitions of a bloc representing 495-million people.

The atmosphere was calm after fraught campaigning that pitched Ireland’s main political parties against anti-abortion groups, pacifists and British eurosceptics.

Pressure on Prague, Warsaw
Irish approval would put pressure on the eurosceptic leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic to ratify the treaty, which would give the EU a long-term president and stronger foreign policy chief.

President Lech Kaczynski of Poland has said he is willing to ratify the charter if Ireland votes ”Yes”.

But Czech President Vaclav Klaus could delay his approval to await a ruling on a constitutional complaint filed by 17 senators against the treaty.

Many political analysts expect Klaus will be forced by heavy EU pressure to sign the treaty into law before the end of the year, helping the bloc create a bigger role as the global balance of power shifts following the global financial crisis.

Irish approval would be a boon for the former ”Celtic Tiger” economy, which was spared an Icelandic-style collapse because of its membership of the euro zone.

It is still reliant on goodwill from Brussels and Frankfurt for its future recovery.

Many people in Ireland are struggling to come to terms with unemployment, higher taxes and the possibility of lower social welfare payments in the next austerity budget.

Irish borrowing costs would likely drop and its banking stocks rise on Monday if the result on Saturday is a ”Yes”. – Reuters

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