Europe and Us

17th December, 2010


Much has been made in recent weeks about our poor standing in Europe. This is important, but perhaps more crucial for Ireland’s future is the perception of the EU here in Ireland. It doesn’t take a genius to see that post-election and into the future there is a real threat of growth in Euroscepticism that could hamper our ability to grow and progress. The ‘bail out’ and now the decision by the European Court of Human Rights on abortion are igniting a debate on our view of Europe.

The threat comes from three sources that must be met head on.

Firstly, many commentators and voters believe that Ireland was bullied into accepting a bailout from the ECB and IMF by EU governments eager to save the Euro’s skin. This impression will continue to last until Fianna Fail gives the country the full and complete truth about the events leading up to the announcement of the loan. I wait for this more in hope than expectation. Despite this we must understand that there is a difference between ‘bullying’ and a third party acting in their own self interest.

Secondly, the terms of the bailout are not good. The next Government has the chance to sit down with our new benefactors and strike a better, fairer deal. This has two elements. Continued scrutiny of the rate of interest in light of changing conditions and a new Government putting their stamp on Year 2,3 and 4 of the 4 Year Plan.

Thirdly, and most threateningly, it would be naïve to think that anti-EU campaigners on both the left and right are not engaging in scapegoatery. They have not yet raised the decibel level but I believe it is only a matter of time before the EU is blamed for all our fiscal ills.

It is always tempting to blame others for our problems. But it would be wrong to blame the EU for the difficulties we face. Fine Gael and Labour will have our work cut out for us driving that message home.