Ireland and the European Union
Sir, – This week marks 20 years since the Amsterdam Treaty. Amid loose talk about Ireland’s place in the EU, it is worth reminding ourselves why we should hold fast in the face of Brexit.
Ireland has no geopolitical weight with which to affect international policymaking on its own. What we do have is a guaranteed seat at one of the most important tables in the world. The EU is the world’s greatest economic bloc. Outside it, Ireland would have virtually no influence on the global environment, in which we must live, work, travel, and trade. We would effectively return to being an appendage to the UK.
Britain’s decision is regrettable. We should not gainsay the challenges it may pose. But our close relationship with Britain is grounded on basic facts of geography, culture, and kinship. Ultimately, it will endure the tumult in British politics. Our own focus should be maintaining the interconnectedness that has served Ireland so well. In a climate of uncertainty and distrust, Ireland needs to stand firm in favour of pan-European friendship, the peace process, and global trade.
The Irish interest in Europe is not just pragmatic. In fact, our European roots go right to the core of our nationhood. Ireland’s quest for independence was not driven by isolationism. It was about finding our own place in the world. Our greatest patriots were not insular men and women. Rather, they wished to see Ireland take its seat among the nations of Europe and make a worthy contribution to European civilisation. From the monks and scholars who spread Christianity across the Continent, to the Wild Geese acclaimed for gallantry in the forces of France, Spain, and Austria, the Irish have always seen themselves as part of something broader.
As a proud Irishwoman, I was delighted to receive my first burgundy-coloured passport, indicating that, as an Irish citizen, I was also a citizen of Europe. For me, it marked a moment of Ireland coming into her own. When my daughter began her Erasmus year recently, she arrived in France as an equal citizen of the EU. This is a precious legacy that should be protected for future generations.
Membership of a wider European community has allowed Ireland step out from under the shadow of our larger neighbour, diversify our trade, and reopen horizons that were long closed. As we face choppy waters ahead, we should not be unsettled by panicked voices. We should keep our eyes on the long term, remembering how far Ireland has come. – Yours, etc,
MARY ROSE BURKE,