(Reuters) - Members of Ireland’s Greens, the junior partner in Prime Minister Bertie Ahern’s coalition, failed on Saturday to agree on whether to back or reject the European Union’s reform treaty ahead of a referendum later this year.
Here are key facts about the referendum:
- Ireland is the only EU member holding a referendum on the treaty. A “No” vote would topple a project designed to replace a rejected constitution and end years of diplomatic wrangling over institutional reform.
- Ireland’s three biggest parties -- Ahern’s Fianna Fail and the main opposition Fine Gael and Labour -- support the treaty. Green Party lawmakers and ministers back it despite divisions among members. The nationalist Sinn Fein, with just 4 seats in the 166 seat Dail (lower house), is the only party opposing it.
- An opinion poll published by the Irish Sun newspaper last month showed 22 percent of those surveyed backed the treaty, 6 percent were against and 72 percent undecided. An Irish Times survey published in November showed 25 percent in favour, 13 percent opposed and 62 percent undecided.
- The government has said it plans to hold a referendum in the first half of 2008. A date will be set after lawmakers return from a winter break on January 30.
- Surveys show Irish voters are among the most pro-European in the EU but in 2001 they rejected the Nice Treaty, another reform drive. The Greens campaigned for a “No” vote then, and Ireland ratified the treaty only after a contentious second referendum backed by promises to protect Irish neutrality.
Writing by Jonathan Saul and Paul Hoskins; Editing by Jon Boyle
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