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20 years ago today: Ireland enters the new European Union

The Maastricht Treaty was signed on February 7, 1992 – with Ireland sending Bertie Ahern and Gerard Collins to sign up.

YOU MAY NOT recognise the man sitting on the left hand side of this photograph – but the chances are you will recognise the man on the right.

20 years ago today, Ireland was one of the 12 countries to sign the Treaty on European Union – better known nowadays as the ‘Maastricht Treaty’.

That treaty essentially superseded the previous European Community, creating a union which allowed some members to enter into facilities like a single currency, the euro.

It also created the ‘three pillars’ structure of the EU – the European Community pillar, the Common Foreign and Security Policy pillar, and the Justice and Home Affairs pillar.

The treaty was borne out of the will of member states to extend the previous arrangements to include criminal justice, judicial cooperation, and the creation of a single common internal market.

A referendum on approving the treaty – which did not formally take effect until January 1993 – was held in Ireland on June 18, 1992, and approved by 69 per cent of voters with just over one million Yes votes.

The man on the left of the photo above, by the way, is Gerard Collins, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs. The man on the right is the minister for finance, Bertie Ahern.

There was a unique reason why the Taoiseach wasn’t there: he was about to step down. Charles Haughey had quit as Fianna Fáil leader the week before the treaty was signed.

Albert Reynolds was appointed in his place on February 6 – the day before the treaty was signed – and became Taoiseach four days later.

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