ON THIS DAY: 22 January 1925: Birth of Raymond Crotty, Economist, writer, academic, political activist and farmer who advocated against Ireland’s membership of the EU
Raymond Crotty was born in Kilkenny into a family of 5 brothers and 5 sisters. While a student in St. Kieran’s College he began breeding pigs in his spare time, which led him after finishing school to work on a farm of one of his relatives. He later studied at the Albert Agricultural College in Dublin and in 1945 purchased a 204 acre farm in Dunbell, Kilkenny and spent the next 20 years developing his knowledge and skills with regards to farming and agriculture.
He continued studying via distance learning with the University of London and the London School of Economics. In 1961 he was hired as a lecturer in Agricultural Economics at the University of Wales, he sold his farm and became an economic advisor to various organisations and and departments. He later worked, variously, as a consultant for the World Bank, the IMF, the UN, and the Commission of the Andean Pact in the Caribbean, Botswana, India, Thailand, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.
He returned permanently to Ireland in 1982 to take up a lectureship in statistics at Trinity College, Dublin.
Crotty now was a highly experienced farmer with agricultural and economic expertise and this helped shaped this views with regard to the Ireland and the European Economic Community (EEC). He advocated for the imposition of an annual land tax which he believes would be the best way to achieve agricultural efficiency. He believed that Irish agriculture would be damaged by joining the EEC and that instead of becoming more efficient, farmers would be dependent on subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). He opposed the same CAP as a charter for monopolists which was to the benefit of big conglomarates and not the small farmer.
He was a tireless, formidable campaigner who had an abundance of courage and energy, forward thinking and controversial, he avoided allegiance to any political party. He became a leading public figure during more than two decades of opposition to European integration. The insights and experience he gained during his time farming in Ireland, and during his economic consultancy work in developing countries, deeply influenced his publications and facilitated an original approach to economics and, particularly, to the problems of pastoral farming. He saw analogies between the economic problems of Ireland and of former colonies where the traditional social and political structure had been displaced by externally imposed institutions. He wanted Ireland to be prosperous and to transition out of its former colonial status and believed that the EEC would hamper that.
Crotty believed that Ireland could not share in the same union as an equal member with its former colonial abuser. As an ex-colony, he maintained, Ireland was not suited to be back in a union with its colonial master. He consistently expressed his concerns of what he termed a “European Super State” and spoke about the loss of Ireland national identity.
In 1972 Crotty and another Trinity college academic Anthony Coughlan opposed Ireland’s accession to the EEC. Over the next 20 years he continued his campaign against further integration, during the Single European Act campaign in the mid 1980s and the Mastricht Treaty referendum held on 18 June 1992.
Crotty is probably best known to the general public for the ‘Crotty judgement’ of 1987, which may yet prove to be the country’s strongest defence against unwarranted pressures from the larger EU member states. Taking a case that he believed would end him in financial ruin, Crotty’s character and integrity were called into question. In a 200-word judgement that took a mere two minutes to read, the Supreme Court found against the government, in Crotty’s favour. This Supreme Court ruling forced the government to accept that significant changes to EU treaties had to be put to the Irish people and be ratified by referendum.
He also stood for election in the Dublin constituency of European Parliament election in 1989. He received 25,525 votes (5.69%), but it was not enough to elect him. He continued to campaign against Ireland’s membership of the EU up to his death on 1 January 1994 at the age of 68.
Crotty left behind a lasting legacy and many of his concerns were subsequently proven correct. He was a prolific writer, producing books, pamphlets, articles, and letters on subjects such as economics, history, and Ireland’s involvement with Europe.
His final work, When Histories Collide: The Development and Impact of Individualistic Capitalism, is edited by his son Raymond and published posthumously in 2001.
Reviewing it on behalf of the American Sociological Association, Professor Michael Mann of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) describes it as “an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man” and “a must-read.”
There is an archive in the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, which consists of pamphlets, letters, photographs and records of Raymond Crotty’s scientific work as well as his political activities relating to the European Union/Community. It includes material on his court action on the 1987 Single European Act, which led the Supreme Court to lay down that constitutional referendums had to be held in Ireland before the State could accede to treaties entailing a surrender of sovereignty to the EC/EU.
Raymond Crotty and his wife Bridget had seven children