Wednesday 25 April 2018

Benoît Keane: We are back at the heart of Europe

Benot Keane

I LEFT Ireland as a student just as the Celtic Tiger was born and I now work in Brussels. In that time, the perception of the Irish in Europe and how we view ourselves has changed considerably.

It is easy to forget now but Ireland was the European model for new EU members. In 1999, as a student at the College of Europe (Bruges), we visited Poland and when, at a function at the Polish Parliament, I introduced myself as coming from Ireland, the government minister cried out: "Congratulations! We want to be just like you!"

Somewhere along the line, being like the Irish fell out of fashion. It is hard to say when exactly but the low point was the first Lisbon Treaty referendum in 2008. The perception was that we voted No because we did not need the EU any more.

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