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‘You can’t stop the world and let Ireland off’?

November 18th, 2008 · 5 Comments · European Union, Irish Politics, Lisbon

European Flags in front of the Berlaymont - Li...

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This is a new phrase I learnt which is in use by the European Movement referring to Ireland’s choices on EU membership at the moment. . (When I heard it first it gave me memories of school bus tours and wanting to …ok you know the song.)

The European Movement is a group which has recently reorganised and hosted an interview with EU Commission Vice President, Margot Wallström which I mentioned last week. I was invited to attend and along with a sprinkling of bloggers had a chance to speak with her after the interview in that bloggers huddle. 

An article in last week’s New York Times asked about the possibilities for a European Obama. Steven Erlanger meant in race terms and the article reflects on European differences in race, intercultural and multicultural politics.

When I think about an Obama type figure in Europe in these post Lisbon/pre Lisbon 2 or 1.5 my thoughts turned to a good communicator, someone who breaks through the mould, promises change and transparency and recognises people’s differences and fears in negotiating discourses on European Citizenship.

Last week whilst watching EU Commissioner Margot Wallström speak I wondered what happened to our European Union/Unity evangelists? Where did they disappear to? Ms Wallström was very impressive, and although I had heard of her before, I don’t think I had ever heard her speak and I doubt many in the general public would have a clue who she is.  At a national level in the evangelical scale we have had Dick Roche.  

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin is only getting into his stride, there is nobody in the Fine Gael or Labour sides of the house that I could point to being evangelical in their leadership on European Affairs. 

Deaglán de Bréadún (who still seems to really like the aul blogging!) wearily treads over the coals that are the reasons why Ireland does not like the EU so much and what has to be done….

There is very little interest in or commitment to the European ideal in this country for reasons one could well speculate about. Maybe it’s the fact that the South stayed out of the second World War and the people do not understand or appreciate the role of the EU in maintaining peace in Europe. Maybe it’s the education system. Even some of our senior politicians don’t seem to have a good grasp of how the EU works. Until we see people emerging on the Yes side who have the same zeal, commitment and singlemindedness as Declan Ganley and the Cóir activists – whatever one’s views of their politics –  the prospects for getting the Treaty passed will remain uncertain.

And with groups coming out with phrases like the above, and publications like this, Government Ministers saying ‘trust us’ and EU politicians and decision makers like Margot hiding their lights under bushels I can only agree at the moment!

Declan Ganley has spent the day on the airwaves and I have not heard anyone zealous, committed or singleminded who was able to counter or correct him.  There are large hints about us getting to keep our commissioner (more about that later in the week) but how is that going to make people feel any better about Ireland’s membership of the European Union?  Maybe when we find our evangelists they could ignore Mr. Ganley’s whining for a while and concentrate on making sure people understand membership of the European Union and what it really means. 

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