Subscriber OnlyPeopleIreland's 50 years in the EU

A newborn arrived in our house on the day Ireland joined the EEC. I was that Euro baby

Many of the improvements in our day-to-day life stem directly from European legislation

Ireland joined the EEC, as it then was, in January 1973. This is one of a series of articles exploring our evolving relationship with the European Union – and its past, present and future

When Ireland joined the EEC, on January 1st, 1973, there was much fanfare in our house in Bray, Co Wicklow, because a new baby had arrived.

I was born that day and so, I was later told, were lots of other babies in Ireland. We all received a specially issued coin to celebrate our arrival as Ireland’s original European citizens. I really was a Euro baby.

Unfortunately, my coin didn’t appear to survive a burgling incident at our home in later years.


But my photograph appeared in the Irish Press and other newspapers. My proud mother, Terrie Murray, kept all the clippings. She’s keeping well. Both my parents are.

When my parents married, in 1971, my mother was working for the VHI, which was a semi-State company.

Due to the pending European Union membership, the marriage bar had been lifted in the VHI and so my mother was one of the first women in Ireland to return to a semi-State after marriage.

I was fortunate to attend a newly-built national school, St Fergal’s in Ballywaltrim, Bray. There was a great sense of community and walking to school with friends was always enjoyable. Secondary school was another new build, St Kilian’s community school in Ballywaltrim.

The schools were located at the edge of the town, with fields stretching up the slopes of the Little Sugar Loaf [hill]. Over the last 20 years, those fields have gradually been covered with housing estates. Despite this, we are still suffering from a major housing shortage in the area, in common with other parts of Ireland.

When I was growing up, sewage was pumped directly into the sea with limited treatment. But thanks to EU environmental laws and funding, a sewage treatment plant was built. It seems to me that many of the improvements in our day-to-day life, such as water and air quality, stem directly from European legislation.

I had the opportunity after leaving school to attend one of Ireland’s newest universities, DCU. The exposure to people from different backgrounds, nationalities and outlooks was life-changing. Lifelong friends were made. And being a citizen of the EU allowed for easier travel across Europe.

Upon graduation I worked for several companies before moving to Galway to work with a technology company.

Initially the journey from Bray to Galway would take between three and four hours but with EU funding a motorway was built from Dublin to Galway, reducing the journey time to two hours.

It is a pity that the motorway network was never completed on the western seaboard to link Limerick to Cork and Galway to Sligo/Castlebar. The distance from Limerick to Cork is only 98km but on national primary routes which meander through town and villages the journey regularly takes more than 90 minutes.

These days, I now live in Athenry. I’m a married father of two grown-up children. I hope my daughters, aged 19 and 18, get the opportunity to enjoy our continued membership of the EU.

How do I feel about my own milestone birthday?

Well, I’m probably just about one of the youngest of my gang of friends so I feel like I’ve spent this year going to 50th birthday parties, so I’m the last of them.

Mentally I still think I’m 23 or 24, but my body doesn’t think that anymore – that’s the problem!

But I’m not apprehensive about turning 50. When we were growing up people in their 50s seemed really old, but certainly I don’t feel like that is the case anymore. I suppose your perspective changes.

As for the EU, I think it has aged really well. I think it’s been massive for Ireland. I’m patriotic but I don’t think we’d be where we are now if it wasn’t for the EU, and all the things that were forced through, particularly to help the progress of women.

With the rise of right-wing governments in power in some countries, that attacks the idea of community and communality. But in general I’m very positive about it all. I’m a self-confessed Europhile.