DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish support for Europe's new fiscal treaty increased sharply ahead of a referendum on May 31, a poll showed on Saturday, a day after economists warned a "No" vote would end Dublin's chances of returning to bond markets next year.
Ireland is holding what will likely be the only popular vote on the treaty, the text of which states only countries that sign up to the new set of budget rules can access Europe's permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
After Ireland's finance minister said having the ESM as a back-stop was essential to plans to start issuing long-term debt again over the next 12 months, nine out of 10 economists polled by Reuters said on Friday a rejection of the treaty would torpedo such plans.
Those concerns will be eased by the latest Sunday Business Post/Red C poll which showed 53 percent of likely voters in favour of the treaty, up six points from a survey by the same polling group two weeks ago.
Voters opposed to the treaty fell four percentage points to 31 percent while 16 percent told the pollsters they were still undecided, a drop of two points from the previous survey.
That means the "Yes" side, which is being led by the country's three largest political parties as well as business and farming groups, holds a commanding 63 percent to 37 percent lead when undecided voters are excluded.
The treaty needs the approval of only 12 of the 17 euro zone countries to be ratified, but an Irish rejection would undermine one of Europe's key plans for overcoming a debt crisis that raged on last week with Spain and France coming under intense pressure to deepen their deficit cuts.
A separate poll showed backing for Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party fell by three percentage points to 29 percent while junior government partners Labour saw theirs fall for a fourth successive poll, dipping one point to 13 percent.
Support for Sinn Fein, the only major party opposing the treaty, increased again, up two points to a record 21 percent as it continued to capitalize on a Europe-wide wave of anger against austerity measures.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Sophie Hares