Ireland’s MEPs believe that the European Union’s relevance to daily life at home will be underlined by its assistance to the domestic economy.
Speaking at a seminar for Irish regional journalists held at the European Parliament on Thursday last, several MEPs spoke passionately about how decisions taken in Brussels will bring about positive developments in Ireland.
“It’s nothing but bad news every day at the moment,” said Liam Aylward during an extensive interview with this newspaper.
“But it’s up to us to let people know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that there is help available, and Europe is going to play a very important role in our recovery.”
His Fianna Fáil colleague Brian Crowley sounded a similarly positive note.
“Irish membership of the European Union and of the Eurozone is of critical importance to us now,” said the South MEP.
“Membership of the Eurozone has provided vital capital to our banking system at this critical time. It has also provided a structure for stability, even during these very rocky economic times.
“We should ask the question, where would Ireland be today, if we were not in the Eurozone and we were in complete international isolation operating with the Punt as our currency? This would hardly serve our best economic interests.
“The plain fact of the matter is that the future interests of the Irish economy are best addressed by our country fully engaged as a respected and central member of the European Union. This is also the best way for us to secure the best support programmes from the EU for our country.”
Fine Gael’s Colm Burke said that the EU’s contribution to our economic recovery was vital, while demanding a greater rollout of broadband services across Munster.
“Broadband, especially in rural areas, can offer huge opportunities for developing new economic activity, as well as giving people an outlet to communicate and trade with the outside world,” he said.
“Now, in times of economic trouble, the EU has announced a €1 billion stimulus package to roll out broadband.
“I call on the Government to right its previous wrongs in this area and access these funds to ensure a full roll out of broadband so that we can have 100 per cent penetration in Ireland.”
Irish MEPs have been acknowledged for their significant role in negotiating the €350 million lending fund made available to Ireland by the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Companies employing 250 people or less will be able to access the funds within a few weeks, with €300 million to be distributed through AIB bank, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.
The final €50 million has been made available to Bank of Scotland (Ireland), with the money to be allocated at interest rates below current lending rates to companies with projects that promote EU policies.
Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell said the EIB’s decision extend such loans to Irish SMEs demonstrated “a sign of European solidarity”.
He added: “The amount of money now available from the EIB is up 50 per cent, and I expect there will be more money for Ireland.”
Citing the contribution made by the Common Agricultural Policy, the EIB and the latest interest rate reduction by the European Central Bank, Brian Crowley said that positive European intervention in Ireland was undeniable.
“These are tangible examples of how the European Union is helping our economy recover,” he added. “Membership of the internal market will also help our exporters into the future.
“We should reflect how beneficial membership of the EU is to the Irish economy. We should engage the EU. Working hand and hand with the EU will help Ireland pull out of this economic recession.”