Ireland: Micheál Martin responds to EU vaccine row
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Ireland’s Taoiseach, who met with UK Prime Minister on Friday, made his remarks yesterday during an event to mark the 30th anniversary of Irish think tank the Institute of International and European Affairs, entitled Ireland in a Changing European Union. In it, he lavished praise on Brussels and hailed the Porto Declaration, which was agreed earlier this month and which commits the EU27 to reaching targets on employment, skills and social protection by 2030, as “the right political emphasis for underpinning a strong and sustainable post-pandemic recovery”.
At the same time, he took a swipe at the “anti-EU rhetoric” of Brexiteers, claiming Brexit was a “major step-backwards” with “no upside”.
However, Mr Bassett, Ireland’s former ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, was far from persuaded by Mr Martin’s arguments.
He told Express.co.uk: “On relations with the UK, Martin never mentions that Ireland’s unhelpful position in Brexit made it much more difficult and destroyed the pro-EU section of the Tory party.
The whole speech is full of delusions and half-truths
“The whole speech is full of delusions and half-truths.”
Mr Bassett added: “It is sad to hear the head of a democratic Government preach for the need to strip further powers away from national Governments to Brussels, even making the ludicrous claim that the EU organised vaccine rollout was a tremendous success.
“Martin extols the virtues of democracy but fails to point out that the EU is not a democratic institution, the most powerful body is the unelected Commission which alone can propose new laws.”
He said: “He even proposes transferring more financial resources from Ireland to the EU.
“This would leave less for domestic purposes such as housing, pensions, health, etc.
“Martin heaps praise on the euro even though it was responsible for the financial crash in Ireland. He seems to inhabit a form of Alice in Wonderland world.”
It was very clear from the archives that Ireland had only applied to join the EEC in 1961 in order to safeguard its agricultural exports to the UK, Mr Bassett said.
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He explained: “The then-Taoiseach Sean Lemass was scared that the UK would be forced to accept the Common Agricultural Policy if it joined the EEC, which would have excluded third countries exports of foodstuffs.
“Ireland’s agricultural exports to the UK at the time represented our main source of foreign earnings.”
Refuting Mr Martin’s version of events, Mr Bassett said: “We simply had no choice and that was fully realised at the time.
“There was no grand European vision and this is very clear in the State papers.”
He concluded: “The reason for this unashamed propaganda outburst is the growing realisation that the EU is losing popularity throughout the member States and the debacle over the vaccine only showed the danger of over centralising things.
“Essentially the Emperor has no clothes.”
During his speech, Mr Martin said: “After a period where people began to question the very foundations of the European Union, self-confidence is beginning to return.
“This brings with it an opportunity to reshape our future direction – an opportunity which we cannot afford to squander.”
Claiming Ireland’s membership of the EU to have been “an incredibly positive chapter in our history”, he nevertheless stressed the challenges of today were different to those of the past.
He added: “Over nearly 50 years of membership Ireland has changed dramatically – and equally the European Union has changed dramatically.
“There have been key moments when fundamental decisions have been required in order to renew and energise the Union.
“This is another one of those moments and it falls to Ireland to speak up and work for a European Union which preserves its values and builds on its great achievements.”
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