Irish to use tea and celebrity to get Lisbon through

Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:02am EDT
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By Carmel Crimmins

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Campaigners for the European Union's reform treaty will use celebrity endorsements, Facebook and persuasive chats over cups of tea to encourage Irish voters to give the charter the thumbs up in a second referendum.

Ireland's government cleared the way for an autumn plebiscite on Friday when it secured legal guarantees that the Lisbon Treaty would not affect its sovereignty on sensitive issues such as taxation, abortion and neutrality.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is hoping the assurances, together with a more dynamic government campaign, will ensure the treaty will be passed and give the 27-member bloc a more influential role in world affairs.

But after last year's shock "No" result and Cowen's own subterranean popularity levels, pro-Lisbon forces in Ireland are not leaving it up to the government.

"The political establishment in the country has obviously taken a knock in recent months and I think that there is a real need for a genuine campaign," said Bart Storan, one of the founders of Generation Yes, a movement of young people created in the aftermath of last year's "No" vote.

Around 1,200 people have signed up to follow Generation Yes's campaign on social networking site Facebook and the group's website has a section entitled "Fight the Lies" to shoot down what they call false arguments against the treaty.

Storan, a recent graduate, says they are targeting voters from 18 to 30 years of age.

"There are an awful lot of people around the country who are genuinely interested in getting involved just because they see this as a vital step for our country going forward," said the 23-year-old.   Continued...