Europe “walked away” from Ireland during the financial crisis the Dáil has heard. Former Fianna Fáil junior finance minister Dara Calleary yesterday questioned whether Irish citizens would choose to remain in the EU if a referendum were to be called here.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Calleary said the way in which the European Commission “rammed an austerity programme” both here and in Greece was “wrong” and a remain outcome in an Irish vote would no longer be guaranteed as a result.
It comes as Taoiseach Enda Kenny strongly rejected criticism for his speaking up on behalf of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon at this week’s EU summit meeting.
Mr Kenny has been criticised at home and in the UK for interfering in internal British politics by speaking up for Ms Sturgeon at the European Council meeting in Brussels.
Mr Kenny’s actions led to stinging criticism from David Cameron’s Conservative Party while Ukip accused him of acting as Ms Sturgeon’s “gopher”.
“I am not representing Scotland, I reject completely that I didn’t put Ireland first,” said Mr Kenny in response to Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty.
Mr Kenny warned that if agreement on how Brexit is to be achieved, then trade barriers in line with the World Trade Organisation rules will have to apply.
“I don’t want to see a hard border between Northern Ireland and here, but if we have to deal with that then deal with it we will,” Mr Kenny said.
He appeared to contradict previous comments made by his chief whip Regina Doherty and MEP Brian Hayes that Ireland would leave the EU, were we to lose control of our corporation tax rates.
Asked by Mr Doherty if he agreed with his party colleagues, Mr Kenny was clear: “Certainly not. We will not leave the European Union.”
Speaking during a Brexit discussion in the Dáil Mr Calleary said: “We have to look into our own hearts and ask if there was a referendum here in the morning in terms of our membership how would it go because I don’t think we can give a guarantee in this country like we used to.
“I firmly believe the European institutions walked away from us in our time of need. The European Commission in its dealings with us, and particularly in its dealings with Greece, the way it rammed an austerity programme which didn’t stand for anything in terms of cuts but was re-engineering society, especially in Greece, was wrong.”
Mr Calleary called for a Brexit cross-party committee and said local authorities would have to be involved as “every county and local authority will feel some effect” of Britain’s exit from the EU.
“Local enterprise offices should be tasked with coming up with some sort of analysis of how each county is being hit so that we can have a targeted response that deals with the issues that matter,” the Mayo TD said.
Earlier yesterday morning finance minister Michael Noonan said a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is “not a runner” in the wake of Brexit as far as he is concerned.
Speaking at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Mr Noonan said such a border splitting the island of Ireland was not feasible. “I can’t see why an arrangement can’t be made so the control points are at Larne and at Belfast Airport and at Liverpool and Southampton, you know, where the access points are,” he said.
It was another dramatic day across the water in Britain as former London lord mayor Boris Johnson, who was a key figure in the Leave campaign, pulled out of the race to become the next leader of the Conservative party.
His departure now leaves justice secretary Michael Gove and home secretary Theresa May in contention for the leadership.
However, the ERSI has warned his exit will have a negative impact on Ireland’s hopes of gaining special consideration in Brexit talks.
Edgar Morgenroth, ERSI associate research professor said the unexpected exit of Mr Johnson makes it less likely that the UK will strike a compromise around trade and the free movement people with the EU that suits Irish interests.
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