Ireland should be ‘attentive’ to Eurosceptic forces, conference told

Brexit is going to be a test of Ireland’s maturity in dealing with migrants, says academic

The current absence of a strong Eurosceptic party in Ireland does not mean that such a movement might not develop in future in response to the continuing consequences of Brexit, a major summit on the issue has heard.

Dr Mary C Murphy of the Department of Politics and Government at UCC said there may be an element of “payback” for Ireland in return for the support the State has received from others members of the EU27.

Dr Murphy was speaking in the final session of the Killarney Economic Conference which was chaired by Mark Hennessy of The Irish Times.

She set out possible scenarios in which Ireland might be required to be giving in terms of neutrality or taxation, in a debate on the future of Europe.


“It may open up a lot of difficulties for Irish voters. We do not have a strong Eurosceptic party in Ireland. That is not to say that one not will evolve”

Dr Murphy, who specialises in Northern Irish politics, and EU politics, said Sinn Féin had traditionally been been Eurosceptic but the party had campaigned against Brexit.

“As a community and as a society and as young people, we should all be very attentive to those particular forces and develop the capacity to deal with them,” she said.

Special relationship

Matthew O’Toole, a former Downing Street adviser to former prime minister David Cameron, said that the challenge for Ireland would be how special its relationship with the UK would be in the context of it being outside the EU.

Mr O’Toole, who is from Northern Ireland, said that despite all the talk about the special relationship between the UK and the US, there was a “very strong argument that the most special relationship Britain has has is with Ireland.

“It has persevered, not just because of Northern Ireland, but because of the density of history.”

He said that there had been an immense achievement by recent generations of politicians to make it closer than at any time in the past.

“The idea that that is at risk will have resonance.”

John Cronin, former managing partner of McCann Fitzgerald, said there was a need for Ireland to be positive about itself and about Europe.

“We don’t have a choice to stand alone. The EU has been positive for Ireland… For a tiny country we are away up compared to where we should be,” he said.

Dr Ursula Kilkelly, Dean of Law at UCC, told the audience that Brexit was going to be a test of Ireland’s maturity as a country.

“Our own commitment to refugees and positive migration must remain true.

“The other risk which is part of the debate in the UK, is its withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. That would be a disaster. . .To withdraw from most effective human rights enforcement mechanism we have would give a terrible signal to the rest of the world,” she said.

Prof Jim Gallagher of Nuffield College, Oxford, said that it was likely “the UK will agree to a transition deal which has been taken at dictation speed from Michel Barnier, which is the only deal available”.

He said that while politicians will stress that the UK has left the EU, “the fact is that during this during the transition period one has all the obligations of EU members.”

Agreeing with Catherine Barnard, an earlier speaker at the conference, Prof Gallagher said that two years would not be sufficient as a transition period.

He said the really interesting question was the endgame, and he suggested that it could be a Norwegian arrangement, which is on the soft side.

“That leaves the UK in an economic union but not in a political union.

“It gains in the economics and loses any of the political influence.”

He said if the the UK was prepared to pay the price for that then it would be a “half-sensible solution”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times