Irish influence in Brussels


Sir, – As the furore over the EU’s abandoned invocation of Article 16 continues, Naomi O’Leary proposes that further faux pas may be avoided by renewed Irish engagement in Brussels (“Perils for Ireland in navigating fraught relationship between London and Brussels”, Analysis, February 4th).

Noting that familiar faces such as Michel Barnier are fading from the picture, she makes the case for renewed engagement by Irish officials in EU institutions.

This idea undoubtedly has much to recommend it.

In relation to issues such as Article 16, Irish voices within the European Commission’s staff are particularly valuable.

However, one of the less reported consequences of Brexit is that the definition of what constitutes an “Irish voice” in Brussels has changed.

When the Brexit referendum put their future employment in peril, UK nationals working in EU institutions scrambled to find themselves a second nationality. Unsurprisingly, many uncovered links to Ireland.

This presented a means for them to retain their employment, and, indeed, to retain influence in Brussels for decades to come.

The majority of this group are English-born, and have benefitted from an elite English education, heavy on Latin and Greek, but light on Irish history and politics.

They are in no position to enlighten commissioners as to the delicate issues at play with respect to “the Irish question”, and unlikely to don the proverbial green jersey when required.

Moreover, the fact that so many Brits have acquired Irish nationality means that the door will be closed for many Irish citizens hoping to forge careers in Europe, due to a surfeit of officials from a small member state.

Given that European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness’s eyes do not seem as sharp as her elbows (having failed to notice the Article 16 problem), this issue is much to be regretted. – Yours, etc,


Jena Centre

for Reconciliation Studies,