Taoiseach Micheal Martin hailed the European Union’s ‘vital role’ in bringing peace to the island of Ireland on the 50th anniversary of its joining the bloc.
Friday marked half a century since Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Foreign Secretary Patrick Hillery signed the treaty in Brussels that brought the fledgling state into the European Economic Community.
It laid the groundwork for a referendum in May 1972 which saw the Irish people vote by an overwhelming 83% in favor of joining the EEC, renamed the European Union in 1993.
In a speech at the National Archives marking the event, Mr Martin praised the EU’s role in bringing peace and prosperity to Ireland.
He said: “A young Irish state has moved from relative economic stagnation and insularity to economically open, a place at the heart of the single market, to a competitive and attractive location for global investment.
“We have unleashed an unprecedented Irish creative energy and entrepreneurial spirit.
“This is a transformation supported by our European partners, in particular thanks to substantial transfers of structural funding.
“Our membership of the European Union has also played a vital role in the journey towards peace and reconciliation on this island.
“As long as the UK was a member state, Europe provided a valuable shared space in which Irish and UK ministers could cooperate and get to know each other.
“The relationships forged through this contact have helped develop the mutual trust and understanding that has been so important throughout the peace process.”
Mr Martin also praised the EU for its unwavering support for Ireland throughout the Brexit negotiations.
“They supported Ireland as we worked together to manage the challenges on this island resulting from the UK’s decision to leave the European Union,” he said.
“Making the goal of maintaining peace by avoiding a hard border and protecting the island economy a top priority from the start of negotiations.”
EU membership has given Ireland “reach and influence that we wouldn’t otherwise enjoy”, he added.
Over the next 18 months, a series of events will mark major milestones on Ireland’s road to EU membership.
Mr Martin said: “We will use this opportunity to encourage reflection, debate and exchange on the relationship between Ireland and the European Union and how best to contribute to a strong and shared future.
“Today is a day to celebrate our history in the European Union and to be proud to be Irish, to be European.”
The Independent Gt