Hope and history rhyme

EUROPE today bears witness to the most significant event since the razing of the Berlin wall in 1989.

In Dublin, other spectral walls will disappear on this historic May Day, when the people of 10 countries formally become new citizens of the European Union and embrace the hope of an enhanced economic and political future.

For some of them, the journey to today’s accession ceremonies began 15 years ago, emerging from the shadow of Soviet control to become fully-fledged members of the EU. Today, the 10 new states will be embraced during the Day of Welcomes, which Ireland will host.

Their leaders will join Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and other EU heads of state at a flag-raising ceremony in Dublin, which will herald the arrival of the EU as the biggest trading formation in the world.

The enlargement of the Union will bring advantages and disadvantages, apprehensions and opportunities of both a political and economic nature.

It will now comprise 25 states and a population of 455 million, a monumental leap from what the founders of the original European Economic Community could have ever envisaged.

Today will see the realisation of a dream for millions of people and their leaders who pursued a goal to strengthen ties with their European neighbours.

It is the day when, according to President of the European Union Pat Cox “hope and history rhyme”, a fitting description from Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy:

“If there’s fire on the mountain

Or lightning and storm

And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing

The outcry and the birth-cry

Of new life at its term”

Hopefully, this “new life” will not spring from a day marred by unwarranted violence by those protestors who may be determined to subvert such an historic occasion.

The right to protest is, of course, unalienable, one appreciated and understood by the new members of the EU.

It is a day to celebrate their embodiment in a future of hope and expectation, and one which should not be blemished by a gratuitous display of civil disruption.

The gardaí and army will be on the streets of Dublin in force to endeavour to ensure that the celebrations will not be hijacked by those elements who would use the occasion for perverse political opportunism.

Peaceful protest is legitimate, but what is not is the brand of protest which the gardaí are fearful will be witnessed from a comparatively few groups of agitators.

Hopefully, the spirit of the occasion will prevail and the accession day of the ten new states will be remembered for its historic milestone, rather than the ugly face of violence.

Ireland will rise superbly to the landmark day and extend its heartfelt congratulations to those countries that have arrived at a new dawn.

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