The Government has been accused of “intimidating” the electorate in a desperate bid to get this month’s fiscal treaty referendum passed.
Addressing a near 100 strong crowd of onlookers inside the Longford Arms Hotel last Thursday evening, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams lashed out at the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
He accused government leaders of attempting to bully unsuspecting voters to accept the May 31 referendum instead of focusing on the treaty’s real issues.
“The Government has fought a completely negative campaign,” he said, as attendees filed out from the Longford town hotel after the two hour meeting. “They are trying to frighten people and confuse the issues.”
Taking a direct swipe at recent comments made by Finance Minister Michael Noonan in which the Limerick East TD warned of a much tougher budget next year should the treaty fail to be ratified, Mr Adams said Mr Noonan’s remarks had been unhelpful.
“I don’t know how thoughtful his (Mr Noonan’s) remarks were to be honest. The fact is it (comments) was not part of the informed debate that the Taoiseach promised.”
One of numerous meetings held by Sinn Fein up and down the country as part of its ‘Austerity Isn’t Working’ campaign, Mr Adams rejected suggestions the campaign was aimed at maximising its party vote.
He also rubbished claims made by the ‘Yes’ side that the treaty’s adoption would provide a mechanism for access to further emergency funding should the country require another bailout.
“Sinn Fein is taking a legitimate stance in maximising its vote in order to build the party. We are doing that as best we can, but this is a campaign about an issue we believe in. We do think it would be disastrous for people if this policy was to become part of our daily lives,” he added.
The meeting, chaired by Athlone Town Cllr Paul Hogan, heard of how budget cuts had affected groups and associations locally.
Ann O’Leary from Co Longford’s Community and Voluntary Forum spoke candidly about the recent €400,000 budget reduction to St Christopher’s Services.
She said drawbacks affecting welfare payments made to parents and carers of autistic children (domiciliary care allowance) has left many families struggling to cope.
Fighting back tears, Ms O’Leary said: “Taking a domiciliary allowance away from a child with autism is depriving that child from reaching their full potential. This is not just austerity, it is cruel.”
The Referendum Commission, meanwhile, launched its own public information strategy last week, a campaign which is expected to include TV adverts and leaflets being dispatched to homes across the country.