DUBLIN (Reuters) - A growing number of Irish voters say they will back the European Union’s reform treaty in next month’s referendum, although nearly half of those canvassed remain undecided, a poll showed on Saturday.
Ireland is the only EU state planning a referendum on the treaty, meaning that a “no” vote could sink the project designed to end years of diplomatic wrangling over reform of the bloc’s institutions.
A poll in the Irish Times newspaper found that 35 percent of Irish people said they would vote “yes” on June 12, up from 26 percent in a previous survey conducted in January.
Those who said they would oppose it rose to 18 percent from 10 percent, while 47 percent said they were undecided, down from 64 percent in January.
Ireland, whose rapid economic growth over the past decade has been underpinned in part by EU funding, is generally seen as being among the region’s most pro-European countries. But that has not always guaranteed success at the ballot box in the past.
In 2001, Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty designed to enable EU enlargement, forcing the government to hold a second vote that was widely criticised as undemocratic. A second vote is unlikely to be an option in 2008.
Brian Cowen, who took over as Ireland’s prime minister this month, has said approving the accord was a key priority for the government in the next few weeks.
“If we vote yes we remain at the heart of a successful Europe, making our voice heard and continuing to benefit,” Cowen said in a campaign speech to voters on Friday evening.
“A no vote will put us on the outside and rejects the policies which have helped us to achieve so much.”
Opponents fear the treaty will damage Ireland’s military neutrality and its power to regulate its own tax affairs. The government and the accord’s supporters say it safeguards those concerns.
The poll on Saturday showed only 6 percent of people had a good understanding of the treaty, which replaces an EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
The survey was conducted by pollsters TNS mrbi on May 12 and 13 among 1,000 voters across the country, out of an electorate of around 3.2 million people. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.
Reporting by Jonathan Saul