As a small island nation on the western frontier of Europe Ireland has an interesting relationship with the European Union. When Ireland first joined the European Economic Community in 1973, Ireland were regard as the “poor man” of Europe. It is also argued that Ireland joined at the right time. The mindset of other European states, was a general attitude that assistance should be given in order to raise the standard of living in less well off states, including Ireland. People’s lives soon became populated with signs dotted around various infrastructural projects, reading jointly funded by some European body or institution. In many ways, the Irish people have firmly backed the EU, with approval ratings among the highest in Europe. However, this is not a blind form of loyalty.
One of the more unique traits of Ireland within the EU is its positioning. In any supranational organisation such as the EU; power is often associated with the core member states such as Germany, France, Belgium etc. While the members on the fringes of Europe, such as Spain Greece and Portugal are often felt left behind. Ireland fits into this niche category; where geographically Ireland is one of the most western member states. Now in a post Brexit world Ireland is even further from the European core. However, the irony is, Ireland has become more important to the European project, becoming the only English-speaking nation, and remains firmly aligned with Europe. It is also the case that no real Eurosceptic party has ever had any significant support, unlike other European counties outside of the core Benelux states. While there are some who call for a divorce from the EU, they are very much minority and are rarely taken seriously. Although some mainstream party’s such as Sinn Fein who have not always been keen on the idea of the European project, they would often describe themselves and being Euro - Critic rather than Eurosceptic
This fondness for the EU is not absolute, and is not the case that the people of Ireland are always “Yes-Men” for Europe. This can seen in the form of the two Lisbon treaty votes, where the Irish electorate voted against the treaty on the first instance, while it was passed by the second vote. This highlights the concept that the Irish public; while pro EU, are more than capable of standing up for their own principles. Irish tax policy is another area where MEP's and Irish politicians are willing to stand up to larger member states with more political and fiscal clout. The responsibility for each member state to set its own tax policy was brought back into firm focus during the Irish Apple tax saga, with Ireland winning an appeal against the European Commission’s case, that demanded Apple to pay over €13.5 million in unpaid taxes.
The Apple tax saga highlights Ireland’s ability to punch above its weight and remain one of the most important states in the European Union.
With only 12 MEP's and a key ally (UK) now gone it’s important now more than ever that Irish MEP's step up to the mark. Phil Hogan; Ireland’s EU commissioner whom holds the trade portfolio, who has played a significant role in post Brexit negotiations, has undermined, his and Ireland’s ability and importance, by attending the contentious Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Galway. Those who argue the point that Ireland has too much lose if the commissioner reigns may have a point, now that a no deal Brexit may happening having an Irish man in a key position my prove to be invaluable. However, it is yet to be seen will Phil Hogan remain in his post.
Ireland's future in Europe is where things start to get interesting. What first started off as a monetary union and to prevent another deadly war among the nations has now turned into no of the most powerful supranational organisations in the world. The main issue is when it comes to how much sovereignty are member states willing to give up. With Russia now becoming more of a threat, we may be on the verge of a European army, in the form of PESCO or something similar. In addition to this new economic powerhouse such as India are quickly emerging as potential superpowers with whom the EU will have to deal with. The EU also faces several threats internationally, while right wing and populist party’s may have had poor results in some recent elections, they are now a permanent player in mainstream politics especially in the eastern bloc and Sothern half of Europe. Anand Menon - Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London, has proclaimed that the EU has a long life ahead, and instances such as Brexit and COVID19 will only deter countries from leaving the EU, after answering a question by our Chief Editor Drummond McGinn, whilst on a Nordic Conservative Union (NKSU)Facebook Live, during the lock-down. However only time will tell, many will be watching to see how fare the UK outside the EU.