Europe is vital to Ireland’s future
Remaining an active member at the very heart of the European Union remains Ireland’s best chance for continued national success in the 21st Century.
Ireland, by virtue of its history, its geography, and its cultural outreach has always succeeded in magnifying its visibility and influence around the world. But as a small, modern nation, the reality is that we require the partnership and goodwill of larger partners to achieve this success.
Among our historical partnerships, the EU stands head and shoulders above the rest. Since 1973, EEC and now EU membership has helped to raise the social and economic standards of our country to unprecedented heights.
Irish businesses have unhindered access to a market of more than 500 million people.
Our citizens have the right to move, work and reside freely within the territory of other member states.
An estimated 700,000 jobs have been created in Ireland during the years of membership; trade has increased 90-fold; and Foreign Direct Investment has increased dramatically from just €16 million in 1972 to more than €30 billion today.
Between 1973 and 2014, Ireland received over €72.5 billion from the EU, including €54 billion for farmers and rural areas from the Common Agricultural Policy.
Irish is an official working language in the EU, which helps to pro- tect the country’s teanga dúchasach for future generations.
And like so many other European nations, the EU gave us a supporting platform to heal some of our own historical scars. European Union membership — and significant amounts of European funding — bolstered the Northern Ireland peace process.
Now, as we celebrate Europe Day and the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, we must look to the future and decide what comes next. The decision by our neighbours in the UK to leave the EU, coupled with the rising tide of nationalism in many EU countries, means that we and our European partners stand at a crossroads.
In one direction, we pledge to renew our European vows and find better ways to face head-on some of the most pressing challenges of our time: climate change, migration, and security, to name but a few. In the other direction, we withdraw into ourselves and contribute to a looser, weaker EU.
The choice is stark, and we cannot afford to be complacent in our attitude towards European cooperation. Irish citizens must resist the strengthening anti-EU voices in our country who feel emboldened by Brexit. To those who would move us away from our European partners, I would offer these cautionary words: be careful what you wish for.
Instead, we should continue to play an active role by influencing the upcoming EU-UK negotiations to limit the damage from Brexit.
It is in Ireland’s interest — but also very firmly in Europe’s interest — to ensure that the EU and UK maintain a sensible, mutually beneficial relationship post-Brexit.
We must not set ourselves apart from the other 26; instead we should place our unique strategic insight at the heart of the negotiations.
And aside from Brexit, we should make our voice heard at European level during this time of catharsis and flux. The European Union postBrexit will not be the same, and as a mature, confident member of the club, Ireland can play a part in shaping a Union which delivers even more benefits for our citizens.
The EU is arguably the greatest vehicle for maximising small country influence in the history of the world. Few countries have benefited as much from EU membership as Ireland, and we owe it to ourselves and to our partners to do our part now that the going is getting tough. The EU is not a remote office in Brussels — it is you and everything around you!
There will be new opportunities for Ireland – in agriculture, in business, in banking, in trade, and as the main English-language entry hub into the single market. On Europe Day, let us vow to work together to do the best we can for a renewed and revitalised European Union. In so doing, the EU will continue to do the best it can for us.
European flags fluttering in front of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission.
Since joining the EEC in 1973, Ireland has created 700,000 jobs and seen its trade increase 90-fold.