IRELAND/LISBON TREATY : AHERN RESIGNATION BOOSTS CHANCES OF YES' VOTE IN REFERENDUM.
The departure, on 6 May, of Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern should not be too harmful to the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, planned for 12 June. On the contrary, it could refocus voters on the real question of the ballot and avoid sanction voting' against the government.
This is according to several EU analysts, including the German daily Die Tageszeitung of 3 April, which states that "news of this resignation will please Brussels [ ] Certainly, with the exception of Sinn Fein, all the parties are in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, but the scandal from the Ahern affair was an unpredictable factor. The Irish had already rejected the Nice Treaty once, particularly due to domestic policy. On the second attempt, Bertie Ahern gained their support. Now, with the announcement of his resignation, he is preparing the way for a yes' in this referendum."
Ahern announced his resignation on 2 April, to prevent the investigation into his involvement in certain financial irregularities from disrupting the government's work in the coming month. According to the daily The Irish Times, it is almost certain at present that Finance Minister Brian Cowen will succeed Ahern as the leader of Fianna Fail (centre-right) and become prime minister. The party in power will gather on 9 April to elect its new leader.
During this time, the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering (EPP-ED, Germany), will visit Ireland on 7 and 8 April and will meet Ahern. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will also visit on 14 April. The question of the referendum will be the centre of debate. Ireland is the only country in the EU which has to organise a referendum on the new treaty, as set out in its constitution.n