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Key Irish euro referendum pits fear against anger

On Thursday, Merkel’s austerity policy faces yet another critical vote, leaving Ireland with a grim conundrum.

Yet critics say the no campaign has failed to convince on the crucial issue of future funding.

“When it comes to this vital question of: Where is the money going to come from? How do we fund our services? How do we bridge the gap between what goes in and what goes out? I think even fair-minded objective people would say that they fail rather dismally,” says John O’Brennan, director of the Centre for the Study of Wider Europe at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, outside of Dublin.

O’Brennan himself is uneasy about the Fiscal Treaty, particularly as it is another sign of a move away from the community model that was a mark of the way the EU operated for so long, whereby institutions such as the European Parliament, Commission and Court of Justice acted as a counterbalance to national interests.

Within the euro zone, the trend has increasingly been for intergovernmental decisions. This allows the bigger countries such as France and Germany to steamroll the smaller peripheral ones. And this, he argues, is leading to an increasing democratic deficit in the EU.

Yet for all that unease and rage, it looks like the great anxiety about how Ireland will pay its way could have the upper hand on Thursday. A number of polls released over the weekend showed that the yes vote was in the lead. However, the large number of people who are still undecided means that there could still be a late swing to the no side.

And turnout could be crucial. While polls ahead of the first Lisbon and Nice referendums showed that those treaties would be approved, the anti-Treaty voters turned out in greater numbers.

O’Brennan predicts that on Thursday fear is still likely to trump anger. “Undoubtedly there is an element there that wants to punish the government,” he says. “But that is tempered by the risks.”

“We are very angry, but we are not angry enough that we can vote no.”