Dublin Castle ceremony to mark start of Ireland's EU presidency


Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be joined by other senior politicians and members of the diplomatic corps at a Dublin Castle ceremony this morning for the start of Ireland’s six-month presidency of the European Council.

The public are invited to attend the ceremony which starts at 10.45am. They can gain access from 10am through the Palace Street gate.

Three milestones

The flag-raising ceremony will mark three milestones: the beginning of Ireland’s seventh EU presidency, the 40th anniversary of EU accession and the European Year of Citizens.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore, Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton and Lord Mayor of Dublin Fine Gael Cllr Naoise Ó Muirí will also take part in the event.

Ireland’s European commissioner Máire Geogeghan-Quinn is expected as well, along with opposition leaders, Irish MEPs, heads of EU offices in Dublin (the commission and European Parliament) and others.

Release of 40 balloons

The celebrations will include the release of 40 balloons (one for each year of EU membership) by schoolchildren engaged in the EU-focused “Blue Star” programme for primary schools.

Both the Irish and EU anthems will be played by the Defence Forces Band.

An Irish Blessing will be performed by the award-winning Methodist College Choir from Belfast.

Ireland is the first presidency to be awarded the sustainable and environmental certifications that were also awarded to the London Olympic Games venues.

“The core themes of the Irish presidency will be stability, jobs and growth in Europe,” a statement on behalf of the presidency said.

Drive for recovery

“The year 2013 will usher in a new phase in the European Union’s drive for recovery.

“The Irish presidency of the council is about securing stability and ensuring that it leads to jobs and growth.”

The “core priorities” include banking union and strengthening financial regulation, coupled with improved economic co-ordination through the European semester process.

In tandem with this, the presidency will place a spotlight on youth unemployment.

“We will push ahead with legislation to promote Europe’s digital economy as part of creating the single market of the future – concrete proposals here include data protection, cyber security, e-signatures/e-identification, high-speed broadband rollout and web accessibility.”

Prioritising trade

Trade will be another priority and the presidency will “work towards opening new markets, creating new opportunities for enterprise, leading to more jobs and growth”.

The statement said: “We believe the EU must work more to respond to the common problems that we face.

“No time can be lost.