I took part in a two day seminar in Maynooth University discussing how Ireland fared as an EU member over the past half century. 

Many of the contributors stressed the economic benefits. 

These included a huge increase in the number of jobs in Ireland.  This happened  because much improved access to world markets flowed from EU membership. Tariffs and other barriers to trade were removed. Equally importantly EU membership  eased trade in and out of Ireland through having a single set of rules for goods and services.  

These rules 

  •    are made democratically through the European Parliament and Council
  •    interpreted consistently under the aegis of the European Court of Justice and
  •    enforced , in an even handed  and transparent way, by the European Commission.

They apply in all 27 EU states , and this has dramatically reduced the bureaucracy that would  apply if there were 27 different states each  with their own “sovereign” rules. This is something that is being discovered by the UK, now that it has left the EU.

The Single unified set of  rules in the EU has enabled Ireland to attract investment, notably from the US. 

EU funds enabled Ireland to modernise its educational system over the past 50 years . 

In my contribution to the discussion, I stressed that the benefits to Ireland of EU membership were much wider than economic. 

Prior to EU membership, Ireland was overshadowed by Britain, psychologically as well as economically. As an EU member we developed a much healthier relationship with Britain, with fewer complexes.

 That helped the Irish and British governments to work together to seek solutions to the problems in Northern Ireland. 

As an EU member we were able to defend our global interest, with the support of 26 other member states. 

Indeed one of the remarkable things about the EU over the past 50 years has been the EU’s tendency to find common EU solutions to problem, even where, legally, member states might be entitled to look for a “national” solution. This has been especially noteworthy in regard to issues like Brexit, the purchase of vaccines for Covid, climate change, and the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. By working with other EU states, Ireland magnifies its influence.

I believe we, in Ireland, must work harder to understand the needs of all the other EU states. We need, as far as possible, to understand their languages and unique histories. Like us, each EU state has its own sensitivities. 

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