We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The group said there needed to be a renewed effort by all stakeholders to better educate and inform voters. Sadbh Cox/The Journal
TJ events

Teachers, politicians and journalists - what experts say is needed to teach public about the EU

The discussion took place during one of The Journal’s three live events ahead of the elections on 7 June.

A PANEL OF experts have expressed the importance of the education system, the media and politicians doing more to inform the electorate about how the EU works.

At an event co-hosted by The Journal and the University of Limerick on Monday, a group of EU experts said if more good information was shared with the public about the bloc, it would undermine attempts by candidates who might try to mislead voters. 

The group said there needed to be a renewed effort by all stakeholders to better educate and inform voters in order for them to make informed decisions on their votes.

The discussion, the second of three live events about the EU to be held by The Journal in each of Ireland’s European constituencies, comes amid predictions that indicate the Parliament is likely to be less progressive in its next term with populist, anti-European candidates expected to top polls across nine member states.

While previous polling by The Journal has found the majority of Irish voters are “very likely” to vote in the European elections on 7 June.

Speaking at yesterday’s event in Limerick the director of strategy at the European Movement Ireland – which engages with the public about the EU – Rory Harte said that in the run up to polling day the public needs to be made more aware of how much the EU impacts their day-to-day lives.

Harte said that the work done collectively by MEPs had as big an impact on people’s lives “as fixing the potholes outside your house”.  

  • Harte also discussed the importance of the presence of NGOs at the EU. You can read more here.

Harte added EU had regulation on everything from social media to how clean the bathing water should be at swimming spots around the country.

“If we think about that information gap and how we talk about it, there’s one which is about the process gap and how Europe works. But the other is what’s the impact of Europe, why it should be important to you and why that’s something you need to pay attention to.”

Editor of EU News Radio Ireland, a public service broadcasting unit that covers EU affairs, Karen Coleman said that this information could be better shared to the public by independent news media outlets investing their time to explain and cover the inner workings of the bloc.

“There’s been a dwindling pool of Irish journalists covering the EU, I think it is very badly covered. There’s hardly any coverage by independent media coverage of what is going on,” she said.

The Journal / YouTube

Coleman called for a ring-fenced, independent media fund to be established, so that Irish commercial outlets can more easily appoint journalists based in Belgium and other member states who can “really get under the skin of what is going on at EU level”.

  • You can read more on this point from Coleman here.

Coleman added: “We need much more scrutiny of what our MEPs are doing, of what the European Commission is doing, of what happens when European Council meetings take place.

“There can be different views, and we need journalists who can really understand this. We are suffering from a lack of coverage.”

Harte said that he agreed that the EU needed more coverage, but he added that not all the responsibility should be placed on the media either.

“There are Irish MEPs working on legislation the whole way through and compared to most other EU countries,” Harte said.

As Irish MEPs have local offices “in the same way that your local councillor has an office”, he added, “the fact that they’re not out there explaining it, I think is a bit of an abdication of responsibility sometimes”. 

Standardising EU law created a ‘common language’

Dr Susan Leahy, a professor at the University of Limerick’s School of Law who recently advised the EU on drafting directives to protect victims of violent and sexual crimes, said the EU has had a huge impact on standardising criminal law across member states.

“It creates a common language that we can speak,” she said. 

  • Leahy discussed the difference European laws have made for victims in Ireland. Read more here.

“It gives us a direct comparison that we can work across the jurisdictions with, that I don’t think we had before – because we might have just looked at the next English-speaking jurisdiction, or maybe to the next common law jurisdiction rather than to our friends in Europe.”

Dr Joachim Fischer, Emeritus Jean Monnet Chair in European Cultural Studies at the University of Limerick, said the education system could do more to improve public knowledge on the workings of the EU and the impact of European laws on Ireland. 

Fischer said that some politicians “often they blame the EU for things that the EU is not responsible for.

  • Fischer also highlighted how Ireland has made no progress on its European languages strategy. You can read more here.
“But the the point is, how do we increase the or address the information deficit?”

He said his answer to this issue is to include European Studies in syllabuses “at all levels”.


This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel