Europe, Vincent Browne, and Me


Poor Vincent Browne. What Faustian deal did he make in his life that gave him that eternally perplexed look. Complimented by his raised eyebrows, crusty the clown haircut, and sad resigned sighs, it was very prominent on Monday night (11th May 09) when he had Euro Candidates Marian Harkin, Pascal Mooney, Jim Higgins and Declan Ganley on his panel. And who could blame him? Having sat for an hour through the ‘discussion’ I am, as he apparently was, no wiser as to why any of them should be paid hundreds of thousands of euro to ‘represent’ us in Brussels. Fianna Fails Pascal Mooney informed us that he wanted to be in Europe so he could win friends and influence people. He read about this kind of approach in a book, he told us.  Jim Higgins of Fine Gael said that he wanted to position Ireland in the ‘slipstream’ of France and Germany’s financial recovery. Not much of a plan if you ask me. A rather shrill Marian Harkin seemed hell-bent on ripping Declan Ganley’s throat out and Declan Ganley spent so much time defending himself against the other three that one has no idea what he wants apart from democracy and accountability which is hardly a revolutionary call. For some reason Padraig McLaughlin from Sinn Fein wasn’t at the table.

Vincent I’m afraid did not do too well in the chair, allowing the debate/discussion to plunge into  a chaotic cross talking cacophony of raised voices, accusations, and shouting matches, ending with Marian Harkin telling Mr Ganly somewhat childishly that ‘You started it!’

Somehow it all seems so distant. So irrelevant.

But then when I look at the powers which Europe has increasingly taken upon itself to run our lives I get a little nervous and suddenly it doesn’t seem so distant or irrelevant. For example why does nobody see Europe’s recent comments on our budgetary measures and on how our Government is running the economy, as tantamount to outside interference in our economic and political affairs? Are our budgets drawn up for the Irish people, or for a group of unelected mandarins in Europe? If these mandarins did not accept our budget would we have to draw up another one? One that is perhaps more suited to Europe’s interests than Ireland’s?

The lack of interest by the electorate in Europe is a dangerous thing and no doubt suits the politicians. It allows Europe to forge ahead with its plans without scrutiny or accountability. Ireland has a population not much bigger than the average European city. Four million out of a population of four hundred million means that we are at a numerical disadvantage and as such we run the risk of being swamped and trampled on by the vested interests of the bigger, more influential countries. It is for this reason we need to pay attention to what is happening in Europe and who we elect to represent us. Every day we seem to cede more financial and political power to Brussels without as much as a whimper. Our own Government seem to increasingly need the permission of Europe before they can pass any legislation in our own so called sovereign parliament. If our role in Europe has been reduced to ‘winning friends and influencing people’ then what can our expectations be from it? Playing along unquestionably to Europe’s tune as long as there’s a few bob in it? This would not be new. After all we played along with our friends in Boston when they needed a place to fuel planes for their illegal war in Iraq and turned a blind eye to rendition, and there was a nice few bob in it too.

There is no doubt that our future lies with Europe, but that future must be based on equality, respect for our vote, our independence, and our right to determine our own future.

If that is not in the mix, we might find that eighty years after our war of independence, we are in real danger of losing our voice and becoming little more than subdued vassals of a European regime we have no control over.

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About Ronan Gallagher

Writer and Film-maker living and working in Leitrim in the North West of Ireland. View all posts by Ronan Gallagher

3 responses to “Europe, Vincent Browne, and Me

  • Paul

    To be fair, without Europe we are lost. While the EU may have grand aspirations, but there will always be fragmentation. As a tiny island nation, we only get back what we put in. In some ways we are model Europeans, and in other ways we are more corrupt than any third world nation.

    To see and hear elected representatives squabble like children is really only a reflection of our national psyche. We have no national plan, no common good, it is only about what we can do for ourselves. It is all local politics.

    If it was not for the EU we would be in an even worse mess. We never learn, and here we are in the worst crisis to befall the state. What do we do? We increase taxes, increase prices and reduce wages, and leave people no alternative, except to go North.

    We need the EU to keep us in line. It is not Europe we should fear, but ourselves.

    • Ronan Gallagher

      You are right Paul. I am in mortal dread of ‘ourselves’ and have been for some time. ‘Ourselves’ don’t know how to run an economy, have no vision and can’t take No for an answer. The problem is that ‘Ourselves’ seem to be running Europe as well, given they have exactly the same problems.
      If power is to be wielded from Europe then we need to know who wields it and what they intend to do with it. And it is very clear from the Lisbon vote that we don’t.

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