Independent TD Shane Ross has called on the Government to defer the referendum on the fiscal treaty.

Mr Ross said this was because other nations throughout Europe were waiting for the outcome of the French Presidential election. He pointed out that only three member states had so far ratified the treaty.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions, Mr Ross said French Presidential Candidate Francois Hollande had indicated he would renegotiate the treaty. He said it may not be relevant in a few months' time, "if Hollande gets his way".

Mr Ross asked the Taoiseach to join with those forces in a campaign for growth and job creation in Europe, saying that growth was very important, particularly to Ireland which has downgraded its growth forecast.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that it is not for him to interfere in any way with statements made by European political parties in the final days of elections in France and Greece, adding that these parties and candidates are entitled to their views.

However, he said, he welcomes any leader who now joins the clamour for growth and investment.

He said the treaty was signed by French President Sarkozy.

Mr Kenny said: "The possible addition to the treaty in relation to growth and jobs is one that I support strongly; but this does not change the Treaty.

"Growth is absolutely fundamental to what we have to do, and the Treaty is about sustainable growth."

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan earlier warned that if people vote No in the fiscal treaty referendum, the Budget he is planning for later this year will be "dramatically more difficult" than if there is a Yes vote.

Mr Noonan said if people believe that by voting No they will avoid more tax hikes, the opposite is the case.

Arriving for today's Cabinet meeting, the Minister said access to emergency funding from the European Stability Mechanism depends on Ireland voting Yes.

Rejection 'only way to escape from austerity'

Launching its referendum poster campaign this morning, the Socialist Party said the way to escape from austerity was to reject the treaty.

Dublin MEP Paul Murphy said austerity was not working.

Mr Murphy described Mr Noonan's comments as an attempt to hold a gun to the heads of Irish people and force them to vote Yes.

The party accused the Government of using scare tactics and Dublin North TD Clare Daly said they made no apology for linking the vote to opposition to household and water charges.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Noonan had "some cheek" to threaten the electorate and accused the Coalition of engaging in threats and bullying.

Fine Gael also launched its campaign today, with Enda Kenny saying a Yes vote in the referendum would lead to stability, prosperity and jobs - and claimed a rejection would lead to uncertainty, instability and confusion.

Mr Kenny gave three reasons for a Yes vote - to ensure continuing inward investment, to guarantee access to the ESM, and to establish good housekeeping rules throughout Europe.

He denied that the Government was "scaremongering", after comments by Mr Noonan that a No vote would lead to a more difficult Budget in December.

In the Dáil, the Taoiseach said he discussed the grievances of Irish people in respect of the financial burden placed upon them with Chancellor Merkel of Germany at their last informal meeting.

Mr Kenny said Ms Merkel is aware of it and anxious to help in any way possible.

TV3 hosts first treaty debate

Politicians from both sides of the argument took part in tonight's debate on the treaty at TV3's studios in Ballymount.

Arriving at the studios, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the most important thing was to get the country talking about what he described as a "hugely important decision on where Ireland gets its funding".

Mr Coveney said he will also be making the case that this is a very important step towards providing the certainty and stability needed to start growing the economy again.

Ms McDonald said the treaty solves none of Ireland’s problems and will cost the country dearly.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said he thought that it was a very good debate and said that the No side had been unable to say where the money would come from.

Leaving the debate, Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins said he regretted that the Taoiseach and Tánaiste as leaders of their parties would not come out as part of this debate.

Mr Higgins said that he believed it showed a weakness on their part.

This was the first in a series of special programmes discussing the treaty.

RTE's The Frontline, Prime Time and TG4 all say they will be broadcasting special programmes about the referendum later this month.

Farmers call for Yes vote

Elsewhere, the Irish Farmers' Association and leading executives from the agri-business sector have all called for a Yes vote.

IFA president John Bryan said a Yes vote was in the best interests of farm families, the agri-food sector and the economy.

Managing director of Glanbia John Moloney said it is critical that Ireland has a stable currency base to maximise its competitive position to help exports when milk quotas are abolished in 2015.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association has also called for a Yes vote in the referendum.

ICT Ireland, the IBEC group which represents the technology sector, said a Yes vote was needed to keep Ireland connected to investment and opportunities.

The Irish Hotels Federation said a positive vote would assist in bringing greater stability to the economy.