At the heart of Europe for another 1400 years

Posted By: November 20, 2016

In rainy Brussels to update member states on progress of Peace and INTERREG programs and to press for continued support
Blog of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. Sunday, November 20, 2016

For all its oft-publicised flaws, there is something enormously redemptive about the European Union in session.
Indeed, as I watched the General Affairs Council of Europe in action in Brussels on Wednesday — 28 states at one table, a legion of translators in booths overlooking the room, a Slovakian in the chair and a Romanian Commissioner holding court — I was reminded of the body’s core mission: to replace war war with jaw-jaw.
As Finance Minister, I was able during an ‘in camera’ luncheon to address Ministers for Europe from the 27 states which will soon start negotiations with the British Government.
And I found my audience sympathetic to the need to ensure the North of Ireland is treated as a special case when those negotiations start. Not only because we share a land border with the Irish state but also because the 27 states accept that the crowning achievement of the EU has been the Irish peace process. 
I told the Ministers for Europe that I was enormously proud of the new citizens who have contributed mightily to the growth of our nation in recent years — the Poles, Lithuanians, Romanians and Estonians to name just four nationalities — and my resolve to ensure that no one is ordered out of their new home as a result of Brexit. Whatever solution lies ahead for Britain, the special case for the North must include access to the single market and freedom of movement of labor.
I recounted how we have been Europeans for a long time — for 1400 years and more since St Columbanus in 591 set out from Bangor to bring Christianity to Europe. And I left my new friends in no doubt but that we intend to remain at the heart of Europe for at least another 1400 years.

You can catch up with my other activities during a fruitful week via the Finance Department’s official ezine and I invite you to follow the Department Twitter feed.