Until 10 days ago, confidence had been percolating through the political establishment that the momentum towards a more integrated European Union was all but unstoppable. The ratification process for the new EU constitution was seen as just the latest step along the path.
Now, that idea lies in ruins. Attempts to pass the constitution via referendum failed ignominiously in France and the Netherlands. In France, 55 percent of voters responded with a resounding “Non!” when asked to back the Constitution. In the Netherlands, two days later, the result was
“nee” – an even more decisive 62-38 percent defeat for the euro-enthusiasts.
Most mainstream political parties in Ireland are as pro-European, if not more so, than their counterparts across the continent. Among the Republic’s major parties, only Sinn Fein and the Greens could be described as “Euroskeptic.”
The pro-Europeans point to the benefits Ireland has gotten from membership of the EU and its antecedent organizations. When Ireland joined the EEC in 1973, its per capita GDP was only 60 percent of the European average. Today, it is more than double that. Back then, there were just over one million people employed in the State; now, that figure is almost two million. Total EU subsidies to Irish agriculture in the past 30 years total around