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Taoiseach Micheál Martin and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Alamy Stock Photo

Nearly nine in ten back Ireland's EU membership, but support for joint defence less certain

Support for EU membership is highest in Dublin and lowest in Connacht, but relatively high everywhere in the country.

NEARLY NINE IN ten people in Ireland believe that the country should remain an EU member, but support for being part of an increased joint defence effort “remains uncertain”, according to new polling.

88% of respondents agreed that Ireland should remain a member state, while only 7% disagreed and 5% did not know.

It’s the highest level of support in the last three years, compared to 84% in both 2021 and 2020, but lower than the 92% and 93% recorded in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

However, the proportions of people who feel they have a good understanding of how the EU works and of who would support being part of increased EU defence and security cooperation are smaller.

Polling by Red C for European Movement Ireland was carried out among a representative sample of 1,001 adults around the country.

It found that support for EU membership is highest in Dublin at 92% and lowest in Connacht, Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan, where it falls to 78%.

When asked if Ireland should be part of increased EU defence and security cooperation, 59% agreed it should. Just over a quarter disagreed and 14% said they did not know.

In a statement on the findings, CEO of European Movement Ireland Noelle O’Connell said that “people’s attitude to increased EU defence and security cooperation has fluctuated over the years”.

“It averaged 58% from 2017-2019, dropped to 49% in 2020, then increased to 54% in 2021 and rose further to 59% this year,” she explained.

“While the war in Ukraine may account for this slight increase in support, the data shows that opinion on this subject remains quite uncertain.”

In 1972, Ireland voted by referendum to join the then-European Economic Community with 83% support, becoming one of the first three countries to enroll in the bloc after its initial six members in 1957.

At the start of this year, Irish finally became recognised as a full status official EU language after a 15-year derogation that limited how much material was translated into Irish.

Before 2007, the only EU documents translated into Irish were treaties. It then became a working language with limited status, meaning only a small proportion of documents were translated, before being given full status from January 2022.

Asked whether Ireland’s EU membership had positively impacted their life, 79% of respondents agreed, 9% disagreed, and 12% didn’t know.

The responses skewed more positively in Dublin (83%) compared to Connacht and Ulster counties (74%), with 70% of people in Munster and 77% in the rest of Leinster saying yes respectively.

Only 73% of women felt the EU had made a positive impact on their life compared to 85% of men.

And slightly fewer people believed they have a good understanding of how the EU works – 76% agreed they did, 20% disagreed, and 4% didn’t know.

O’Connell said that the “broad support” for remaining in the EU “may be reflected in the fact that a similarly large majority of people agreed the EU has impacted their own lives in a positive way”.

“Irish citizens are consistently among the most positive about EU membership when compared with other member states,” she said.

“However, things can change rapidly. As we reflect on 50 years of EU membership, we also must continue to work to maintain this strong level of support in Ireland in the years to come.”

The question of Ireland’s role in European militarism as a neutral country has long drawn divided opinion over to what extent Ireland should be involved in EU defence.

It was a major discussion point during the 2019 European election and Russia’s war on Ukraine has reignited the debate in recent weeks.

In the first days of the invasion, the EU announced that it would finance the purchase of weapons and other equipment for Ukraine, the only time it has ever made such a move for a country under attack.

The Department of Foreign Affairs declared that Ireland would not finance weapons but would contribute to “non-lethal” elements of the package.

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