chapter  3
18 Pages

From isolation to involvement: Ireland


The uniqueness of the Irish case among ‘newcomers’ rests largely on its intense but ambiguous relationship with Britain. On the one hand, in 1949, Ireland left the British Commonwealth1 but, at the same time, maintained agreements with Britain regarding both trade and migration which ironically foreshadowed similar degrees of integration in continental Europe ten years later. In particular, the establishment of a passport-free zone,2 not to mention the continuation of a monetary union,3 between the two countries pre-dated Schengen and the introduction of the Euro, respectively, by at least twenty years. Ireland’s case is also unique in that its eventual approach towards EEC/EC membership was mediated, and moderated, by its relationship with the United Kingdom. While, on the one hand, wishing to distance itself from its nearby neighbour and historic colonizer, it shared many of its sentiments regarding European integration and, more relevant for our purpose here, was constrained in its approach to European integration by its dependence upon British policy positions with which it had little in common. The experience of EU membership for Ireland provides the context within which, paradoxically perhaps, it has been able to exhibit the greatest freedom of manoeuvre vis-à-vis its neighbour: entering the European Monetary System (EMS) in 1979 and adopting the Euro in 2002, for example.4