People living on islands off the coast of Ireland have already been casting their ballots in a referendum on the EU fiscal pact. Voting across the country will finish on Thursday.
Voters on five remote islands off the northwestern coast of Ireland have cast the first ballots in a closely-watched referendum on whether to accept the European Union fiscal stability pact.
The Irish Environment Ministry, which is in charge of referendums, said 765 people living on five islands off Donegal would be able to cast their votes on Monday, followed by 194 on three islands off Mayo on Tuesday. Some 1,164 voters on five islands off Galway can vote on Wednesday.
The islanders traditionally vote ahead of the rest of the country in case bad weather delays the transport of ballot boxes to the mainland for counting.
Voting in the rest of Ireland is to be carried out on Thursday. Votes will be counted on Friday.
Recent surveys showed that a slight majority of people were intending to vote "yes" to the treaty, but also indicated that many voters were still undecided.
The Irish prime minister, or taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has urged citizens to vote in favor of the treaty, saying that only a "yes" vote would give Ireland guaranteed access to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), Europe's permanent rescue fund.
In a televised address on Sunday, Kenny insisted that the treaty would "create the certainty and the stability" Ireland needed to maintain its economic recovery.
The Sinn Fein party, which opposes the pact, says the accord would "write austerity into the constitution of Ireland."
The pact requires countries to adopt a so-called "golden rule" to balance budgets or face automatic sanctions. Any country that fails to ratify it will not be allowed access to the ESM, which comes into force in July.
Ireland was forced to seek an 15-billion-euro ($106 billion) bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund in 2010.
Ireland's referendum is expected to be the only one in the European Union. It will be closely observed in view of the fact that Ireland had to vote twice to pass two founding EU treaties, the Nice and Lisbon accords.
However, if Ireland does reject the fiscal pact, it will affect only Ireland and its access to EU funds.
tj/ng (dpa, AFP)