Creighton says shortcomings of EU do not warrant ‘visceral criticism’

Independent TD says negativity and cynicism propagated by some politicians must be challenged

Former minister for European affairs Lucinda Creighton. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Former minister for European affairs Lucinda Creighton. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times


The shortcomings of the European Union do not warrant the “visceral criticism” heard about it so often, former minister for European affairs Lucinda Creighton has said.

Ms Creighton said that whether we liked to admit it or not, the union had brought peace and prosperity to hundreds of millions of people.

“The European dream is clearly under enormous pressure but it is worth fighting for,” she said.

There were two major reasons for this: firstly because of the horror that came before the European project was conceived and secondly because of what was likely to unfold if the European project was shattered.

She was speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties, Co Donegal.

Ms Creighton said she rejected the “eurosceptic mantra” that European project was about to steal our rights and force us into “monocultural conformity”.

She said that when she heard British prime minister David Cameron or Ukip leader Nigel Farage speaking of such things in relation to the union, “I simply do not recognise the Europe that they speak of”.

The Former Fine Gael TD said Margaret Thatcher had never isolated the UK in Europe and had often succeeded in contributing to its direction.

Ms Creighton said there was absolutely no doubt that Europe must transform. But the first step must be “to challenge the negativity that certain politicians propagate for their own cynical purposes”.

In relation to the financial collapse in Ireland, she said it was often ignored that the Financial Regulator had led us into “reckless lending practices that brought down at least one of our banks”.

She said there should be no escaping the truth that “bad policy making and bad politics” were the primary reason for the financial collapse in Ireland in 2008.

Independent MEP for Midlands-North West, Marian Harkin, said the issues raised with her during the recent European Parliament election campaign were not the bigger issues that she and her colleagues had “agonised over” for five years.

They were not issues such as airline passenger name recognition, or ‘net neutrality’, but the kind of issues that affected the individuals themselves.

“If you have a child with special needs, that is your priority,” she said.

“People, I think, look to Europe in some kind of broad way. They look to the anti-discrimination legislation and hope that it can enforce their rights.”

But there had been a great anger on the doorsteps about the banking debt.

“We took one for the team, and there has been no real relief or payback,” Ms Harkin said.

Ms Harkin said the swing against the European project in the elections had been “far from universal” and that two thirds of the elected parliament could be described as “broadly European”.

But she acknowledged that by either not voting or by voting for eurosceptic candidates, the citizens of Europe had “delivered a messsage”.

Sir Julian Priestley, former secretary general of the European Parliament, told the event there was “not a neat correlation between economic misery and the success of the populists” in the May elections across the union.

Sir Julian also said he was concerned about a possible referendum in Britain because he believed there was a “serious danger” it would be lost and that Britain would leave the union.

This morning’s session is moderated by Barbara Nolan, head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

A session this evening on strengthening accountability in the public service will be addressed by Robert Watt, secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Other speakers include Prof Kevin Rafter of DCU and management consultant Dr Eddie Molloy.

The final session today will be addressed by former secretary general of the Department of Finance, John Moran, and Fiona Muldoon, formerly of the Central Bank.