Monday 26 September 2016

After Brexit, time for green jersey

Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30

'The Government which Mr Kenny leads ... will be tested as never before by that [Brexit] decision and collectively will now have to show itself to be astute...' Photo: Tom Burke
'The Government which Mr Kenny leads ... will be tested as never before by that [Brexit] decision and collectively will now have to show itself to be astute...' Photo: Tom Burke

The decision of a majority of citizens in the United Kingdom to vote to leave the European Union has raised all manner of difficult questions for the EU, the UK itself and also for Ireland, but now is a time for calm heads and calculated decisions of the kind that were notably absent during the Brexit campaign, stretching back to the foolhardy and self-serving decision of Prime Minister David Cameron to put such a complex question in such simple terms to the people of Britain.

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny has sought to reassure people here, and more specifically the business community and international investors in general, that Ireland has prepared a contingency plan to deal with the reverberations which will inevitably follow the outcome of the Brexit referendum. That is to be expected. More than any other country in the EU, Ireland has most to lose by the confounded decision of the world's fifth largest economy to turn its back on the mass market on its doorstep.

The Government which Mr Kenny leads, and the civil service and diplomatic teams which underpin it, will be tested as never before by that decision and collectively will now have to show itself to be astute in its constituent parts to minimise the undoubted impact on the economy and therefore society at large here. The consequences, no longer potential but now a reality, can not be overstated. But stated they must be.

The consequences will be profound, with scarcely an upside whatever the view of irredeemable optimists. The Government has a responsibility to inform the people of those consequences in the first instance and not to sugar-coat decisions to be taken so as to make them all the sweeter. This is not a time for duplicitous political actions.

In that regard, and to use that much abused term, now really is a time to put on the green jersey. The tentative new administration here should be afforded every support by those progressive parties and members of the Opposition who must surely understand that, in the round, Ireland's membership of the EU has been to the good, and, further, that this country's economic, cultural and social relationship with the UK must also be preserved insofar as those two ideals remain compatible. Undoubtedly, Ireland's future remains at the heart of Europe, a point that should be repeatedly emphasised at this critical juncture.

That is not to say that the EU's institutions are blameless in allowing the fine founding ideals of the European movement to descend to this sorry pass. Those institutions have much to answer for in relation to the recent economic turmoil, and the more recent immigration crisis which has gripped a large part of the continent, two events which have been seized upon by regressive and extreme political forces emerging throughout the EU with no evident intent other than to return Europe to its darkest time of a narrow and threatening nationalism from another generation or aeon, the shadow of which still casts a long and uneasy shadow.

These forces must never be allowed again to get a foothold in the mainstream motivations of a commonly shared and co-operative political movement that has served this country well and will continue to do so.

Sunday Independent

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