Ireland is a Model For Other Nations - Minister of State Tom Kitt, TD
-Why we must all vote Yes to Treaty
Today people across the EU will raise a glass to celebrate Europe Day and we in Ireland have more reason than most to join in the toast.
As the Minister of State responsible for Trade I have first hand experience of the benefits membership of the European Union has brought us. Over the last four years I have been at the coalface in trying to attract new investment, new jobs and new industries to Ireland. And we have been more successful in our efforts than any Government in the history of this country.
Unemployment has halved, incomes have increased like never before and we have created a record 358,000 jobs in under four years. That's one in five of the total jobs in Ireland today.
For thirty years now Europe has worked for Ireland. When Taoiseach Jack Lynch brought us into the European Union in 1973 we had high unemployment, high emigration, low wages and a weak economy. Our young people were not assured of a job when they left school. Few could afford the costs of third level education and the boat to England or the plane to America was the fate awaiting many of our brightest and best. All that has changed now.
Today we have a growth rate some three times the EU average. We have an unemployment rate that is half that of other European countries and the lowest degree of taxation in the Eurozone. Our once crippling national debt is now tiny by European standards.
Indeed every member state has benefited from a larger market for their goods and prospered under the European Union. Despite other nations making financial contributions to Ireland and others, the European Union has been a win-win scenario for all member states. No one can say that Germany or France has suffered as a result of joining forces with a poor Ireland in 1973.
That is why we should not be afraid of an expanding European Union today. Already we are becoming closer to the countries applying for EU membership. Just look at the five years up to 1999 where our exports to the applicant states in Central and Eastern Europe rose by 337%. Already Irish businesses have invested more than £1 billion in these countries.
And when the applicant nations come to seek a model for their own development in Europe, it will be to Ireland that they will look. We should be proud of this and just as Europe did not turn its back on Ireland in 1973, we must not turn our back on them today.
It is appropriate therefore that as we mark Europe Day we also prepare to vote on the Nice Treaty. A treaty that will reform and simplify some of the decision making methods in the EU to allow for a larger membership. It will change a system designed for half a dozen members into one that can accommodate the new members coming on board.
We will once again listen to the Green Party tell us to vote against the Nice Treaty despite the recent visit here of the German Foreign Minister and senior member of the Green Party to tell us to vote for it. Desperate for publicity they will once again trot out the unfounded neutrality argument – once again they will ignore the realities.
We will listen to Sinn Fein argue that we should vote no to the Nice Treaty. We will listen to them argue that we should leave the single currency – a policy akin to asking businesses and jobs to evacuate Ireland immediately.
Like before however, I am confident that Irish people will see through the false arguments and vote Yes. As the only country that will actually have a referendum on the Nice Treaty we will send out a message that we are strong, confident and forward looking – a nation confident enough in its own culture to maintain its essential position on the European state.
Tom Kitt, TD
Minister of State with Responsibility for Labour, Trade and Consumer Affairs
This article appeared in The Irish Sun 10 My 2001Top