Ireland must "defend" the rule of law and respect for human rights within the European Union (EU), Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said, while speaking at an event marking 50 years since Ireland signed the treaty to join the EU.
The last half century had been “transformative” for the country, in part due to membership of the EU, he said.
The union had “stood by Ireland” in the aftermath of Britain deciding to leave the bloc, “making the objective of sustaining peace, avoiding a hard border and protecting the all island economy a major priority from the very beginning of negotiations”, he said.
Ireland was now playing its part “to defend” the union’s shared values, such as “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”, both within the EU, and around the world, he said.
Recent years have seen countries like Poland clash with other Member States, over its approach to the rule of law and human rights.
Ireland signed the Treaty of Accession to join the EU, then called the European Economic Community, in 1972, formally becoming a member on January 1st, 1973. Mr Martin was marking the 50th anniversary of the moment at an event in the National Archives on Friday.
Speaking about the impact of EU membership, Mr Martin said a young Irish State had “transitioned from relative economic stagnation and insularity” to a competitive economy at the heart of the single market.
Relationships “forged” between Irish and British government politicians at a European level “helped to develop mutual trust and understanding,” which assisted the peace process in Northern Ireland, he said.
Membership also gave Ireland the push needed “to strengthen our human rights record”, he said.
Ireland’s success in the years after it joined became a “beacon” to other countries of what could be gained inside the EU, such as Eastern and Central European countries who later joined in 2004, he said.
Ireland’s signing of the Accession Treaty followed a lengthy series of negotiations, beginning in late 1970.