Chief Whip demands financial aid from EU after Brexit

Joe McHugh says the bloc must help Ireland after it bore the brunt of European austerity

Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh has said Ireland should be repaid by the European Investment Bank for its role during the financial crisis. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh has said Ireland should be repaid by the European Investment Bank for its role during the financial crisis. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The Government Chief Whip has demanded the European Union help Ireland financially after Brexit because the Irish bore the brunt of European austerity.

Joe McHugh suggested Ireland should be repaid by the European Investment Bank for playing a crucial role in Europe when the euro currency was “on the brink” during the worst days of the financial crisis.

“Ireland stood shoulder-to-shoulder with its European neighbours during those dark days and Irish citizens bore the brunt of the extremes of austerity during those very difficult times,” the Donegal TD told The Irish Times.

“Ireland needs Europe to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us now in ensuring better connectivity between North and South in both physical infrastructure and continued movement of people.”

Mr McHugh’s comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar caused surprise in Belfast on Friday when he proposed a number of “practical solutions” to the problems expected to be created by the UK’s decision to quit the EU .

Border type

Mr McHugh said the EU needed to be reminded constantly of its responsibilities around the peace process, and warned any type of Border beyond the existing arrangement, “hard or soft, manual or electronic”, would be a retrograde step.

“Europe still has a responsibility to its most peripheral western region after Brexit. Greencastle Harbour in Inishowen, after Brexit, will be the last harbour in the EU. Extra money for the A5 and all these projects have to be explored through the European Investment Bank,” he said.

“This is not just about the A5 from Newbuildings just outside Derry to Aughnacloy [Co Tyrone]. It has to be about upgrading the Lifford [Co Donegal] to Letterkenny road and the N2 from Monaghan to Dublin.”

The Government’s 10-year capital plan, due to be finalised by the end of the year, will include proposals to complete road links between Dublin, Derry and Donegal.

Mr Varadkar confirmed on Friday his Government remained committed to contributing £75 million (€83 million) to the A5 upgrade, which he said had run into planning difficulties. “But I’m absolutely determined we get that road built,” he said.

Infrastructure projects

He said Donegal had been “cut off” and had not had the opportunity to share in the prosperity experienced in the eastern part of the Republic. “I’m determined we should get that project up and running as quickly as possible.”

The Government is also considering offering funding for other infrastructure projects including the Ulster Canal, a derelict waterway running from lower Lough Erne in south Fermanagh, across Cavan and Monaghan and into Armagh, and the proposed Narrow Water Bridge spanning Carlingford Lough.

Improving line speeds on the Dublin-to-Belfast rail line is also under consideration.

Meanwhile, Mr McHugh also said the EU needed to be reminded every person in Northern Ireland had a right under the Belfast Agreement to Irish citizenship, and therefore, EU citizenship. Brexit had “cast a shadow” over the peace process, which was “not a finished product to be walked away from”.

Any slowdown in the movement of people and goods would be unacceptable to citizens on both sides of the Border, he said.