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Column: Is it time to grow up about Europe?

Ahead of next Wednesday’s Leviathan debate about the future of Ireland’s relationship with Europe, panelist Jason O’Mahony tells us that it might well be…

Jason O'Mahony

TWO WEEKS AGO, the Taoiseach hosted a summit in Dublin Castle of 18 of the 27 smallest member states in the EU. After two days of earnest negotiation led by him, the summit completed a draft treaty outlining what Ireland and the other countries think the EU should look like, in terms of everything from EuroBonds to dealing with the Democratic Disconnect by electing a President of the EU.

It was a radical but thoughtful document, balancing out the large populations of the big countries with the needs of the small but numerous countries, and was hammered out by consensus. It will now be presented by the Taoiseach, on behalf of the summit, to the next full EU summit.

What do you mean you haven’t heard of any of this? Oh, wait, you wouldn’t have, because that’s not the way Ireland does things. In reality, we wait for the French and the Germans to have their summit and announce their plans, and then we bitch and complain about not being consulted. But do we ever come up with any ideas or plans bigger than trying to get Stuttgart bus drivers to fund Irish translation jobs in Brussels?

No, we don’t. We’re much more at ease with our face in the cold wet muck, leering hatefully at the man going back to his big house, f**ked over once again. No one does victimhood like the Irish, shaking our collective fists at the Brits, Strongbow and the ECB.  See nothing triggers our modern sense of being hard done by more than our relationship with the rest of Europe.

Take our attitude towards the banks. We say it’s not fair that we are bailing out continental banks that took a commercial risk in Ireland, and made plenty of profit during the Tiger years. This is a very fair point, save for the fact that as they lent, we took it. Are we surely at least half responsible? Many people admit as much, but only quietly and after a quick look over their shoulders. A very substantial number of people, including the Taoiseach, believe that Ireland has no responsibility. We built the Celtic Tiger, aren’t we great, oh wait, the wheel’s come off, nothing to do with us, guv. Bloody Germans.

“Yes, 82 million Germans do have more clout than 4.5 million Irish”

We also bang on about how Europe is not democratic, and how Germany has a much greater say than Ireland. Yes, 82 million Germans do have more clout than 4.5 million Irish. Funnily enough, Dublin gets more TDs than Leitrim too. Is that undemocratic?

And, let’s not forget our old favourite, decrying Germany and France for only being interested in themselves. Seriously? Every Irish referendum about the EU is about Ireland standing up for its own national interests, yet we are outraged when other countries do it?

So, what of our future in Europe? Well, it’s tied in with how we see ourselves as a nation, yet another issue we avoid debating because it might involve confronting uncomfortable realities.

We have three main options. We could join the emerging federal Europe, effectively, being let do what we want in our own sandpit whilst a German mammy occasionally slaps us when we don’t play nice.

Or we could join the Brits on the outside when they leave the EU and join the EEA with Norway and Switzerland, which, let’s be honest, is inevitable. We’d still have access to the single market (the rest of Europe will want to sell the Brits cheese and BMWs) and probably end up using Sterling, which at least will help MI5’s employees in the Republican movement with their expenses claims. Of course, we’d have no ministers or European commissioners and just have to transcribe what others decide at the EU table into national law, so you can kiss CAP,  structural funds and all that malarkey goodbye. Sorry, but didn’t we vote Yes to keep commissioners and CAP and all that stuff?

“If we start chucking out their immigrants, they’ll do the same to ours”

Or there’s the big gun: We could go the National Sovereignty route. A nation once again, etc, free from the Brits and the Brussels Bullies and, well, any reason to invest seriously in Ireland with its tiny domestic market. Control over our fishery rights and borders and all the things we had from 1922 until 1972. We could also renege on all our debts whilst we were at it, reintroduce the Punt, which will boost exports whilst making fuel and imported goods more expensive. Of course, austerity on a pain level equivalent to a stubbed toe would be the order of the day, as we would just have to make the national books balance instantly. And don’t forget, if we start chucking Irma from Spar with her spray-on jeans out, it won’t be long before a rake of Paddies get flung back in our direction. After all, if we start chucking out their immigrants, they’ll do the same to ours.

The reality about our attitude to Europe is tied to the fact that we have no real idea what sort of country we want to be. We debate our values in the most superficial sense, never daring to ask what sacrifices are we willing to bear to deliver on those values. We don’t even want to pay for clean drinking water, and regard not letting septic tanks leak shit into our water as being all fancy and la-di-dah, and that is pretty much the issue: We have no idea as to what sort of country we want to be, so how on Earth can we have any idea as to what sort of Europe we want to live in?

Jason O’Mahony is a political activist, blogs at www.Jasonomahony.ie , and was once a member of the nice wing of the Progressive Democrats (Boo!).   He will be a panelist at the Leviathan event in the Sugar Club this Wednesday, 25 April. For more see http://www.leviathan.ie

WIN: Would you like to attend this Leviathan event on Wednesday in Dublin’s Sugar Club? TheJournal.ie has FOUR sets of two tickets to give away:

  • Simply email your name, address and contact number to competitions@thejournal.ie.
  • Please mark your email ‘Leviathan’ in the subject line of your email.
  • Winners will be contacted by lunchtime today (Tuesday). Good luck!

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