The weekend riots in central Dublin show that the city as well as the EU has a long way to go before the rights of minorities are fully respected, former Taoiseach John Bruton said today.
Forty-two people were arrested and 14 injured as protestors blocking a loyalist Love Ulster parade pelted missiles at gardaí, smashed shops and torched cars.
Mr Bruton, EU ambassador to Washington, today warned that unfettered prejudice can easily lead to ugly violence.
He told the Institute of European Affairs in Dublin: “Respect for properly-constituted authorities and respect for the freedom of expression of others are key European civic values.
“Events in Dublin on Saturday show that, even in this sophisticated city, we have some distance to go in inculcating those values in all our citizens.”
Mr Bruton said the challenge was to generate respect for minorities in our own neighbourhoods and on the island of Ireland.
“Unchallenged prejudice can too easily be turned towards violence. Order is a necessary precondition for the rule of law.
“Just as the rule of law should govern relations between individuals, it should also govern relations between nations.”
He called for a constructive EU-wide debate on minority cultures and religions.
“Otherwise those worries will fester underground , and then find expression in ways like we saw on display in Dublin last Saturday,” he said.
Mr Bruton also called for civic leaders to hold talks with religious leaders to aid integration of minorities, particularly Muslims, into European culture and society.
“One of the challenges that Europeans must face together is the integration of Muslims into European culture and society. If this integration does not take place, we will enjoy little true peace for generations to come.
“To be European is to be a citizen first.
"I believe that European civic leaders, in both the political and the educational fields, should sit down with the leaders of all the major religions in Europe, including Islam, and discuss with them the core European civic values we will need to pass on to future generations through our schools, our media and our public discourse.
Mr Bruton said the debate must take place in the context of the EU motto, Unity in Diversity.
If Muslims are to be integrated into European society, there must be an agreed concept of what the core European values are, he added.
“Those values need to be put into words on paper. That’s the hard part. Vague feelings are not enough.
“If we have not developed an agreed view of European values we cannot systematically pass them on to our own children or the children of immigrants in our schools,” he continued.
Mr Bruton said the project may take ten or 15 years of intense discussion to complete, but if we waited that long to start the debate, it will be too late.