World News

Irish punters start to bet on "No" for Lisbon

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Bookmaker Paddy Power has cut the odds on a “No” vote in a second Irish referendum on the European Union’s Lisbon treaty after a flow of punters gambled on another defeat, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Irish voters, representing less than 1 percent of the 27-nation bloc’s population, will once again decide the fate of the charter on October 2 after their shock rejection last year delayed its reforms, which are designed to streamline the EU’s decision-making and give it a stronger voice in world affairs.

The most recent opinion poll, published in early June, showed 54 percent of respondents backed the treaty but last year surveys also showed a majority in favor until a few weeks before the referendum.

“We have seen a shift toward the ‘No’ side in the last couple of weeks and it appears our punters think things could be just as tight second time around,” Sharon McHugh, a spokeswoman for Paddy Power, said.

“Until a few polls emerge however, there’s just no telling how close.”

Paddy Power cut the odds of a “No” vote from 5/1 against to 5/2 against -- a probability of two in seven.

Ireland is one of four countries that have yet to ratify the treaty.

Germany is expected to ratify the charter before elections on September 27 but Poland and the Czech Republic have said they will wait until Ireland approves the treaty before they endorse it.

The Irish government is hoping that concessions wrung from Brussels, fears of isolation during a global recession and a vigorous “Yes” campaign will swing them the vote.

So far, much of the impetus for the “Yes” side has come from civil society and business groups with little government campaigning.

Opponents of the treaty, who include disparate groups from the left and right, formally launched their campaign earlier this week, arguing the charter would leave workers worse off.

Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Kevin Liffey