Pro-EU citizens must voice support
“Europe cannot afford a period of paralysis as it adapts to the new realities created in 2016,” says Gerry Kiely, head of the European Commission’s Representation in Ireland.
“That is why, throughout the tumult of the past year, the Commission has remained a source of resilience, stability and forward momentum for Europe.”
Ireland’s position needs careful nurturing — given a British election on the near horizon, and the inevitability of more Euro-scepticism to follow during the twoyear negotiations for Britain’s eventual exit.
“Nobody believes the EU is perfect, not even its most ardent supporters, but show me an alternative?
“The EU has brought peace, prosperity and democracy to European countries, and we must continue to work with what we have and improve on it.
“If Ireland doesn’t want to be a member of the EU, what is it going to be a member of? Is there an alternative — there isn’t one,” he says.
Within the Commission, Mr Kiely started his career as an official dealing with the international affairs of Agriculture. In 1991, he became spokesperson for the Agriculture Commissioners, Ray MacSharry, René Steichen and Franz Fischler — staying in this post until 1999.
He then went on, from 2000 to 2003, to serve as head of the Agriculture, Food Safety, Consumer Affairs and Fisheries Section of the EU Delegation in Washington, DC.
More recently, Mr Kiely occupied a series of managerial posts in the Directorate General for Agriculture, including over the last six years as head of the Unit for Pre-Accession Assistance.
The Representation is the local office of the European Commission in Ireland. The roles of the office include explaining how European Union policies will affect Ireland, and being a source of EU- related information for government and other authorities.
Brexit result: 30 years of Euro-scepticism
“Brexit is happening not because of the campaign during the referendum, but because of 30 years of unchallenged Euro-scepticism,” said Gerry Kiely.
“This scepticism is growing in Ireland, and will grow even more as Brexit negotiations get more difficult — and pro-Europeans have to stand up and defend Europe. It is not for the institutions in Brussels to defend Europe, but for those who are proEuropeans,” he adds.
“Pro- Europeans in Britain sat on their hands for 30 years and now they see the price,” said Gerry.
To the voices saying that because Ireland trades so much with the UK and the US, it should leave the EU, Mr Kiely is succinct: “The only reason Ireland has so much trade with the UK and the US is because we are a member of the EU. If Ireland were to leave the EU, where does it go? Nobody is interested in negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with a country of 4.5 million people, we would have no leverage. But within the EU we have that leverage as part of the most attractive consumer block in the world.”
Pro-Europeans in Ireland have to stand up and defend the EU, rather than leave it to someone else, he says.
Hard Brexit challenges
“A hard Brexit will inevitably cause problems for Ireland, and while this is not anyone’s objective, there will be posturing as the negotiations go on — especially from the tabloid media.
“Euroscepticism will be prominent over the coming months, and it is up to the pro- EU voices in Ireland to make themselves heard,” he says.
At a time of major volatility in Europe and the world, Mr Kiely underlines the importance of working together as closely, and as clearly, as possible.
He said: “The lessons of the crises of past years are clear: shortcomings must be addressed sooner rather than later.
“A test will always come, in due course, and you cannot address a systemic problem with a last-minute quick fix. Looking ahead to Rome, and our 60th anniversary, we have work to achieve and a vision to set out.”
“Ireland has the EU’s youngest population. In 2015, 22.1% of people here were aged 14 or under; the EU average was 15.6% (Germany, lowest at 13.2%). Ireland also had the lowest share (13.0 %) of people aged 65+. Ireland’s 36.4 years median age was the lowest versus the EU median of 42.4.
EU FACT “Ireland has so much trade with UK and US because we are in the EU. If Ireland left the EU, we’d have no leverage
Gerry Kiely, head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, who urges pro-Europeans to speak out against Euro-scepticism.