In May 1972, Ireland voted to join the European Economic Community (EEC) as it was known then.
This week on the 50th anniversary of that vote It is important to examine the Ireland of today and our place in an ever-changing union that is broadly unrecognisable from its original economic remit. It is fair to say that the Irish political and media establishment look at Ireland’s membership through rose tinted glasses, constantly emphasising the positive aspects while ignoring any negative features of our membership.
There are, in reality, both positive and negative aspects to our membership of the EU. I believe the negatives now outweigh the positives. Irish citizens are entitled to know the facts and hear both sides.
First, Ireland has been a net contributor in cash terms to the EU since 2013. That means for example CAP payments to farmers or project grants is simply Irish money that is recycled through Brussels. It is Irish taxpayers’ money, given back to us in various forms as dictated by the European Commission. Finance Minister Paschal Donohue said our net contribution to the EU budget between 2022 and 2027 is expected to be around €2BN per year. Our contributions are expected to rise considerably post 2027.
In 2020, member states agreed the EU Covid Recovery Fund. The deal agreed represents one of the worst deals ever agreed in Brussels on behalf of Irish taxpayers. Ireland will be liable for €18.7BN debt with us only receiving about €989M back initially and overall back around €2bn- of our own money.
Laughably, the Taoiseach Michael Martin described this as a ‘good deal for Ireland’ and most media outlets were very shy about informing the Irish people about the details of this dreadful deal. We are now viewed as a compliant cash cow by Brussels.
Throughout our time as EU members, Ireland’s valuable fisheries have been decimated with Irish fishermen now only entitled to 15% quota in our own waters. In 2012, Academic Karen Devine testified in front of the EU Joint Oireachtas Committee that between 1973-2010 over €201BN worth of fisheries had been taken out of Irish sea fisheries by EU boats. Putting all these figure s together, the narrative that Ireland are big winners as EU members simply falls apart. Let us remind ourselves that we have the biggest national debt in the EU per capita.
The adoption of the Euro and the relinquishing of our monetary policy to Frankfurt was a monumental decision that played a key role in the banking collapse. It led to us being forced by the ECB to pay around 42% of European private banking debt while only having 1% of the EU population. It also restricts our ability to deal with inflationary and economic shocks today and in the future. Many economists view the Euro as a disaster, and it is clear today that it was never necessary for Ireland to adopt it. There are 8 current EU members which retain their own currency.
Even before the current inflationary crisis, Ireland’s cost of living was among the highest in the world. According to Eurostat, Irish housing costs are 77% above the EU average. From an Irish consumer point of view, being part of the Eurozone and the single market has not helped reduce living or household costs. We all feel the pinch in our pocket. We live in a Rip off Republic.
Supporters of EU membership often make the point that the economic and social progress Ireland has made over the last 50 years would not have been possible without the EU. Such a claim lacks evidence, to say the least.
Consider for a moment that small countries around the world have made similar progress economically and socially without being part of a political union. In fact, two of the most prosperous and successful countries in Europe; Switzerland and Norway, have never joined the European Union.
EU law trumps our own national law, our Constitution and Supreme Court. Those areas of competence are expanding all the time in the name of ‘ever closer union’. The basic principle of being a rule maker in our own country is broken. It does matter where the laws we live by are made. Our own history tells us that. We spent a long time fighting for national sovereignty and self-government. The main purpose of any government is to put the interest of its citizens first. EU membership arguably means that Irish politicians put the interests of the wider union ahead of those of Irish people. They cannot and should not serve two masters.
Around 450 million EU citizens and their dependants have the right to live and work in Ireland. Our growing population means considerable strain on the limited housing stock, our hospitals, schools and social services. It has a real effect on our daily lives. EU open borders makes us less safe in very real ways. Free movement for workers and tourists also means free movement for criminals.
Recently, the EU has adopted a more authoritarian and intrusive posture. Incoming anti-free speech legislation is an EU directive. The European Parliament recently passed the Digital services Act as it ventures into the regulation of social media and censorship.
In recent days it announced a Chat control draft law so providers can monitor our private messages. These moves should worry us all who value free speech and privacy. For decades, EU bureaucrats demanded changes to our tax regime. It eventually got its way, albeit through an initiative of the OECD.
Why should we not expect the same trajectory on other issues that matter to Irish people, like our neutrality?
Recently, Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen announced plans to end national vetoes. More and more, the EU looks like a unitary state, and not a federation. It is perfectly legitimate, as we in the Irish Freedom Party do, to say “no” to all of this.
James Darby is the Director of Communications with the Irish Freedom Party. The views of guest columnists are theirs alone, and not necessarily those of Gript Media.