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What do Seamus Heaney and The Edge have in common?

They both want Irish voters to say yes to the Lisbon Treaty.

It's no laughing matter, says Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who is campaigning for Irish voters to approve the EU Lisbon Treaty. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

DUBLIN — The government in Ireland is so unpopular that the electors would likely reject any referendum proposal it makes just to register a protest. That is why poets, rock stars and sports personalities have taken upon themselves the role of persuading people to vote in favor of the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum on Oct. 2.

Since a majority voted no on the European Union reform package last year, Ireland has been experiencing a version of buyer’s remorse. There is deep unease across all sections of society at the prospect of Ireland becoming isolated if it rejects the treaty twice, which would stop it from being implemented despite ratification by all 26 other members of the EU.

Most people are of the view that only EU membership saved Ireland in the last year from the type of economic collapse suffered by Iceland, which, tellingly, is now seeking European Union membership. A second no vote would cast doubt on Ireland’s commitment to Europe and almost certainly infuriate its economic and trading partners on the continent. That is why a non-party group called Ireland for Europe has taken the initiative to campaign for a yes vote.

The group features national icons including poet Seamus Heaney, probably the country’s most popular figure, Edge from the band U2, filmmaker Jim Sheridan and Republic of Ireland soccer captain Robbie Keane. On Ireland for Europe's website, Heaney is seen on a video clip reciting from Beacons at Bealtaine, a poem he wrote to mark the occasion five years ago when the European Union welcomed 10 new countries.

“There are many reasons for ratifying the Lisbon treaty, reasons to do with our political and economic well-being,” commented the Nobel laureate, “but the poem speaks mainly for our honor and ­identity as Europeans.”

Ireland is one of the few countries in the world where poets can influence national debate, and Heaney’s intervention has brought discourse to an elevated level in the “land of saints and scholars.”