chapter  5
12 Pages

Ireland and the European Union

In January 1972, the Taoiseach Jack Lynch and his Foreign Minister, Dr Patrick Hillary, left Dublin airport for Luxembourg to sign Ireland's Treaty of Accession to the European Communities. Just over 50 years after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a treaty that gave the people of 26 of the 32 counties of the island of Ireland the right to establish a state (the Irish Free State) separate from the United Kingdom, an Irish government negotiated membership of a Community that was altering the nature of statehood in Western Europe. The Taoiseach and his party were seen off at Dublin airport by the then President, de Valera. The television frame capturing the departing Taoiseach and the ageing president remains hugely symbolic. That tableau captured the ties but also the tensions between the Ireland of 1972 and the Ireland of 1916 . Jack Lynch's departure to sign the Rome Treaties represented the end of the Ireland that de Valera would have had. Right up to thc end of the 1950s, de Valera's idea or ideal of Ireland was that of a rural and preferably Gaelic-speaking society conunitted to spiritual rather than material values. The Ireland of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s was an Ireland fearful of the consequences of economic modernisation, urbanisation and growth. Consequently, in the post-war era, Ireland failcd to participate in or benefit from a golden period of economic expansion in Western Europe.