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If proof were needed that Ireland has been hoodwinked by the EU for years, then these recent findings should finally lay that matter to rest. Yes, Ireland is a very different county today, when compared to the one I grew up in back in the ‘70s; and while the infrastructural benefits Ireland has received are most obvious, there was actually a more sinister plutocrat agenda, always at play underneath the cash windfall.

EU structural funding -on paper- seemed to be of tremendous benefit to Ireland. In tandem with this, Ireland has been allowed by the European Commission to have an excessively low corporate tax rate of just over 8%, bringing more foreign companies to these shores. Yet, the net gains have actually been non-existent. Remember, these foreign companies benefitting from the low corporate tax rate take their profits elsewhere; so has Ireland’s improved infrastructure actually benefitted Ireland overall? The data would indicate otherwise.

This question led me to a very perceptive conference organized not so long ago when very distressing statistics were unearthed. In February 2018 at the #Irexit Freedom to Prosper Conference in Dublin, Dr Karen Devine -a lecturer in International Relations, specialising in teaching European Union politics, Irish Foreign Policy and International Relations– spoke of how Ireland has lost hundreds of billions of euro due mainly to the EU Common Fisheries Policy and will continue to be adversely affected in the future.

While the #Irexit Conference focused on the need for Ireland to leave the EU as soon as possible due the overall adverse economic effects of remaining a member, Dr Devine described the phenomenal price Ireland has had to pay for membership of the EU due mainly to an Irish government that was:

"inept at, uninterested in, or simply against protecting Irish people from the EU."

The principle point of her address was the detrimental costs to Ireland especially in relation to Ireland’s fishing industry and of being part of the Eurozone.
The main natural resource in Ireland is ownership of "some of the most fertile fishing grounds in the world," and EU figures show that Irish waters provided almost 44 million tonnes of fish to the EU (formerly EEC) from 1975 to 2010.

"The landed catch is worth E67 billion in 2008 prices and the total commercial value of that is twice that amount of E134 billion," according to Devine. "So, taken together, Irish fisheries have been worth more than E200 billion over that 35-year period."

Of course, this figure would be a great deal higher when we factor into account the added commercial value from 2011 to the present.

What is so sickening about this is that successive Irish governments over the years were always very aware of the potential wealth generated from the Irish seas, but Irish ministers would continuously cave in meekly to EEC/EU pressure when formulating an EU common fisheries policy. Such a policy saw Ireland (IE) receive just 8% of the generated wealth from Irish waters or less than E18 billion out of E200 billion. According to Devine, "our small island had lost hundreds of billions and will continue to in the future."

What was so refreshing about Dr. Devine’s talk was her explanation that she teaches and researches the EU "from a position of independence." For this, she has experienced a backlash from the Irish mainstream media and academia. In fact, DCU’s own student paper, The Collegeview referred to her data as being based on "fantasy figures," while a similar view was expressed by The Irish Times – a heavily biased liberal newspaper which would typify the general mainstream outlook in Ireland. Dr. Devine responded to the inevitable attacks on her data by saying she was:

"[NOT] one of the academics who are willing to be paid by the European Commission, firstly to promote European integration in the delivery of teaching in universities and secondly to act as PR agents spreading the EU’s point of view in media and other fora."
However, what I found most striking was when I analyzed her data for myself. Her sources of information are (1) the Irish Government’s own estimates, and most striking of all, (2) figures taken from the European Commission’s International Council for the Exploration of the sea. The figures taken from such sources belie the claim that the EU has been a source of good for Ireland. While researching this, I also found data related to the overall net loss to Ireland of being an EU member state. (3) Again, the facts tell a very different story to the type the Irish mainstream media continuously relate.

The only net beneficiary of Ireland’s membership has been the EU itself. Dr. Devine also spoke of how:

"The balance of the European Single Currency benefits goes to German exporters: The German state bank, KFW, estimates the German economy would have grown by E50 – E60 billion less in 2009 and 2010 without the Euro."

20180411_223400_0001

Finally, Ireland is now committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence, or an increased military expenditure from E1 billion to E4 billion per year, due to the Irish government clandestinely signing up to an EU military force last December, though the majority of Irish people have always opposed the Irish defence forces being part of a European-wide army. There once was a time when such a move would have needed a referendum to get public approval for such a constitutional change but due to a cleverly contrived clause in the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, Ireland "was suckered into signing up to a mutual defense clause," according to Devine. It was so painfully embarrassing to see our prime minister, Leo Varadkar, allowing himself to be pussy-whipped by the European Commission just before Christmas 2017, by signing this country up to the military alliance of PESCO; when this country had always prided itself on its neutrality, in particular during the Second World War. Were the Irish electorate consulted first on the matter? No, since obviously the measure would have been roundly condemned which just makes a mockery yet again of Ireland’s supposed democracy.

So, to conclude, Ireland’s infrastructure did benefit from received EU funding since joining the EEC/EU in 1973 but the overall costs have heavily outweighed the gains. We might have better road, rail, and telecommunications systems now than we did when I was a lad, but the country has significantly been of benefit to foreign multinationals, in particular, those most capable of using the improvements in infrastructure to hoard greater profits at a reduced tax rate while benefitting enormously from a flagrant abuse of our economic zone, EEZ, especially in relation to Irish fisheries.

In the final analysis, can any nation claim the European Union has truly represented the best interests of their citizens?

footnotes
(1) Secondary Sources of Information on E200 Billion estimate – Dail Eireann: Fishing Industry Development: Statements, Wednesday, 23 November 2011. Dail Eireann Debate Vol. 747 No. 4: ‘Eurostat statistics place the accumulated processed value of fish taken in Irish waters between 1974 and 2004 at around E200 billion.’
(2) European Commission figures taken from the International Council for the Exploration of the sea – the official database of landed catch in Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, EEZ.

(3) Balance Sheet in Billions of Euro

    EU funds received 		 72		1973 - 2013
    IE funds contributed	 31
    IE net benefit*		 41

    IE Fisheries comm. va.	201		1975 - 2010
    IE share			 17
    EU net benefit		184	

*EU Structural Funds data


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Eugene OBrien

by Eugene OBrien

Eugene O'Brien is a freelance journalist who mainly focuses on feature stories relevant to Ireland and the EU. He is based in Dublin.

Dublin, Ireland