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EU statements in Boston land de Valera in hot water

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A political row has blown up after a speech in Boston by Arts and Heritage Minister Sile de Valera in which questioned further European integration and said EU directives and regulations can often "seriously impinge on our identity, culture and traditions."

Fine Gael called on the taoiseach to explain whether the government stance on EU enlargement had changed and the Labor Party described her remarks as a challenge to EU policy and called for clarification.

Speaking in Boston College Monday at the launch of the book "The American Irish," by Kevin Kenny, de Valera said: "When we joined what was then the European Economic Community in the early 1970s there were fears that membership would make us less Irish, would damage our unique identity, culture and traditions. It didn’t happen. The emphasis in those earlier years was on economic progress and development.

"As the EEC developed into our European Community and later the European Union, decisions other than economic ones were taken. They seemed secondary at the time. But we have found that directives and regulations agreed in Brussels can often seriously impinge on our identity, culture and traditions."

De Valera said she looked forward to Ireland exercising a "more vigilant, more questioning attitude" to the EU.

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"At present the Irish government is actively promoting policies of decentralization," she said. "In the EU the opposite is taking place with the push toward closer integration. It is a move I do not personally favor. It is not necessarily in our interests."

Labor leader Ruairi Quinn attacked her speech and described her comments as "extraordinary."

"It reveals a new strain of Euro-skepticism within Fianna Fail and perhaps it’s a return to the old-style isolationism of the founder of that party," he said.

Quinn said a debate on the EU is welcome but the speech revealed a contradiction between the minister and the stated position of the government.

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