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Confessing to feeling "betrayed and gobsmacked" at the result of last Thursday's referendum on the Nice Treaty, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern (seen left in a pose) has admitted that it will take "a lot of hard work" on the Government's part to pretend that it never happened.

"We in the government are fully committed to implementing the Nice Treaty in all it's aspects", he told reporters outside Leinster House this morning, "a goal which is not brought any closer by this unhelpful expression of the people's will. But I'm confident we can work around it".

The Foreign Minister Brian Cowen is calling the ambassadors of the 12 applicant countries to a meeting in the Department of Foreign Affairs this week to make it clear to them that the Irish vote against the Nice Treaty should not be interpreted as a vote against the Nice Treaty.

"The Irish people have raised real concerns," said Cowen yesterday, "and it's important that we pay lip-service to them, while trying at the same time to move ahead with the process of enlargement and enhanced co-operation that was so comprehensively rejected last week".

Sources within the administration say that a number of options are being considered to get the Treaty passed, including:

-Acting exactly the same as if the treaty had been passed.

-Taoiseach and cabinet members to act all humble and admit having "learned our lesson", hoping to make the public feel sorry for them and vote yes next time around.

-Shots on TV of Bertie being berated by starving Poles and Czechs shouting "We need structural funds and agriculture subsidies or we'll die!".


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