Irish supporters of the European Union’s fiscal treaty maintained their lead as voting began in some parts of the country.
Four polls over the weekend gave the “yes” campaign an average lead of 17.5 percentage points, when undecideds are excluded. Voters on five islands off the northwest of the country cast ballots today on whether to accept tighter budgetary rules. The referendum will be held May 31 for all voters.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny urged his countrymen to back the treaty in a televised address yesterday, saying their “sacrifices” are starting to make a difference and a “yes” vote guarantees access to future bailout funds if needed. With almost a third of voters still undecided, according to one poll, opponents of the treaty said they will step up their campaign.
“The latest polls suggest that the ‘yes’ side has a commanding lead,” Dermot O’Leary, an economist at Dublin-based Goodbody Stockbrokers, said in a note today. “It would take something dramatic over the next three days for the ‘no’ side to win.”
The yield on Irish October 2020 bonds climbed four basis points today to 7.42 percent. While Irish borrowing costs have risen as the Greek political crisis unfolded this month, they’re still about half the euro-era record of 14.1 percent seen in July.
Support for the treaty among voters with a preference has remained largely unchanged at about 60 percent since Kenny announced plans to hold the referendum in February. Two polls, one for the Sunday Independent and one for the Sunday Times, showed the “yes” campaign with a 20-point lead yesterday.
Three trade unions -- Unite, Mandate and the Civil Public and Services Union -- called on their more than 100,000 members yesterday in a joint statement yesterday to vote “no.”
Residents on the islands of Arranmore, Gola, Inishboffin, Inishfree and Tory Island, with about 765 voters, get to pass judgement on the treaty today. Inhabitants of other west coast islands will vote tomorrow and on May 30.
Support for Kenny’s Fine Gael party dropped one point to 32 points, while Labour, its coalition partner, saw support decline three points to 10 percent compared with a previous poll five weeks ago, the Dublin-based Irish Times said today. The poll was conducted by research company Ipsos MRBI between May 23 and May 25 and has a margin of error of minus or plus three points.