Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin T.D. stresses strong and tangible benefits of our EU membership
Speaking today at the European Business Association meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin T.D. stressed the deep ties that bind Ireland to Europe
“Ireland trades extensively with our European neighbours who now account for 63% of our exports. Our people travel with impressive frequency to other European countries and have built up a rich vein of personal and professional ties there. Our young people study in each other’s universities under the wonderful Erasmus programme. In short, we are a deeply connected people. We are both Irish and European. The European aspect enhances rather than detracts from our unique and precious Irish identity.
It is up to us to decide if Europe will move forward with confidence and grapple effectively with the many challenges of the 21st century. Alternatively, we can stall the Union and plunge it into uncertainty at a time of great global economic turbulence. At a time when action is required, we cannot afford a further unpredictable bout of EU reflection and introspection. The referendum matters. It matters for Ireland and it matters for the European Union.
The Government’s support – indeed the huge cross-party and civil society support - for the Lisbon Treaty is an act of commitment. A commitment to preserve the gains Ireland has made in the past three decades and more. It represents a commitment to secure Ireland’s future development, our hard-won prosperity and the jobs of our people in an increasingly competitive world.
The Treaty will give the Union the flexibility and capability to face the major challenges ahead. And there can be no doubt that there is a need for reform, to take account of the much larger Union and of the challenging internal and external policy issues that face us.
We should stick to the winning formula we have pursued for 35 years
as a committed EU insider and not a sulky, dissident member as No
campaigners would wish us to become.
Employment in Ireland has doubled from one million to two million in the past thirty-five years. Foreign direct investment, which is contingent on our EU membership, has mushroomed. In 1972, just before we joined the Union, foreign direct investment was just €16 million. Today it is measured in billions.
The “Yes” side is mainly comprised of those who have advocated support for previous Treaties. The main political parties; the main business groups, – including IBEC, Chambers Ireland and the American Chamber of Commerce; the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the various farming organisations and leaders from right across civil society have all come together to support our further engagement in Europe.
Those on the “No” side include many who have taken an anti-EU position going back to the early 1970s. They include Sinn Féin, which will tell you it is pro-EU but which has opposed every phase of EU Treaty development. They also include Youth Defence, with its long and reactionary anti-EU history. They have been joined lately by Libertas, an organisation about whom little is known. It appears to have borrowed its ideas from a British eurosceptic stable.
The Irish people have made the right European choices in the past. I believe that the evidence of our EU experience, the positive facts of this Treaty and the credibility and judgment of the “Yes” side will again prove more persuasive to voters.
This is no time to become castaways or reluctant Europeans. We must make sure we stay at the heart of Europe, and continue to reap the economic benefits of active engagement, by voting Yes next Thursday.
**The full text of the speech by Minister Martin to the European Business Association meeting can be found at the Department of Foreign Affairs website: www.dfa.ie **
5th June 2008