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Ireland and European Union

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Has Ireland and the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union had a positive or negative impact on the island of Ireland? Illustrate your answer with examples to back up your argument.

Ireland's first application to join the European Union (EU) was rejected in 1961, at which time it was called the European Economic Union (EEC). The founding six countries were wary of Ireland's economic capacity as well as it's neutrality after World War II. The other issue was Ireland's dependency on Britain and the UK market. The French president at the time, Charles De Gaulle, had made it clear that he did not want Britain to join the community. The second application in 1963 was again refused by the French president but Charles De Gaulle's successor George Pompidou (1969) would not stand in their way and Ireland's third application in 1973 was accepted. As was the UK's. At the time when Ireland joined it was one of the poorest countries in Europe, living standards were low and unemployment was high. Now it is ahead of the EU average (Hourihane, 2003).

There must be an appeal to join the EU given it's enlargement over the years, the community began with six countries and now has twenty-seven. Surely this indicates that the advantages for most countries must outweigh the disadvantages. The main advantage to the members of the EU is the single European market. Prior to this each country had to contend for themselves in an ever increasing global market. The Single European Act (SEA) of 1986 paved the way for the single European market where goods, services, capital and people could move throughout the EU freely (Hay & Menon, 207). The physical, technical, and tax barriers have more or less removed through the SEA supposedly increasing the economic potential of each EU member. Joining the EU gave Ireland a market that now stands at approximately 500million people as well as a platform from which to compete in the global market, this made Ireland an attractive location for companies who wanted to do business in Europe. Foreign Direct Investment into Ireland more than doubled to €30 million (Jacobs, 2001).

Ireland also joined the European Economic and Monetary Unit which has meant that power has been signed away to the European Central Bank who have control of monetary policy. The interest rates set have rarely suited Ireland, when Ireland was doing well the rate was low and now they are in crisis the rates are too high. The move into the Euro was intended to make trading within Europe easier, however 60% of Ireland's trade is within the UK and the US who have different currencies (Cooper, 2008).

Irish citizens earned the right to to move, work and live freely in EU member states however this meant that citizens of the other EU countries also had the right to move, work and live freely in Ireland. The free flow of people from EU members meant that as the EU community enlarged so did the number of people eligible to migrate to Ireland.

During the 'Celtic Tiger' boom and the growth of Ireland's economy the country became an appealing destination. Ireland had in the past suffered emigration of it's citizens, there was a turnaround in this and Ireland saw a large and sustained inflow of non-Irish immigrants (Jacob, 2001). There was a 55% increase in employment between 1993 and 2004 with a labour shortage, which immigrants were more then willing to fill. The change in culture was startling to some Irish citizens and for some was a negative development. It is suggested that part of the negative attitude toward multiculturalism was down to a lack of proper programmes and policies to promote multiculturalism in Ireland. The continued government denial of racism in society is thought to have had a negative impact on the acceptance of diversity (Onyejelem, 2005).

EU Structural and Cohesion Funds has benefited Ireland greatly, since joining Ireland has received over €17 billion in support. For the 2000-2006 period the plan was to improve infrastructure, develop a highly skilled and flexible workforce, enhance competitiveness, promote social inclusion as well as evenly distribute the benefits of Ireland's economic growth. The plan was divided into Operational Programmes (O. P's), these consisted of two regional, three inter-regional and a separate PEACE programme to operate in the border counties and Northern Ireland. Both North and South of the border benefited from the PEACE programmes, funding was made available to support projects and actions that had a healing effect on areas and groups that had their economic and social development impeded by the conflict, this could be in terms of tourism, investment, areas that suffered geographically, individuals who had been prevented from fulfilling their potential in society or in the labour market (EU Programme for peace and reconciliation, 2001). These programmes achieved through EU membership has helped bring peace and political agreement in NI through support and investment. For the future an estimated €36 billion in rural development and structural funding will be made available in the 2007-13 period (Eumatters, 2009).

Other EU funding that greatly



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