Trouble brewing in Europe

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

As I write this, my memory is going back to May Day, May 1, 2004. Why?

Because on that day, in Áras an Uachtaráin, Mary McAleese (then the president ) and Bertie Ahern (then the taoiseach ) and various other people gathered to celebrate the coming into Europe of 10 Central and Eastern European countries. This was a very momentous occasion.

In 2004 I was the leader of the Seanad and was in Áras an Uachtaráin to welcome that auspicious day. There were 26 flags flying at Áras an Uachtaráin that day, one for each of the EU member states, and one representing the EU as a whole. Both Mary McAleese and Bertie Ahern spoke strikingly, capturing the emotion and the significance of the event.

In welcoming the countries, Mary McAleese was very clear that we were not all there as witnesses or spectators; we were all called to be developers and nurturers of that future.

Since that accession date, much has been achieved by the EU and indeed other countries like Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia have also joined. All of these countries found it very difficult to get their democracies ‘in order’, so to speak, so that they would not just be welcomed but be fully participatory members of the new enlarged EU.

So far, so good, and you might say what’s all this about? It is because two of those states that acceded on that May Day in 2004, Hungary and particularly Poland, are now caught up in trouble within the EU.

There was a showdown last week where Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, and Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, had it out on the floor of the European Parliament.

In 2015, the Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (PiS ) Party won power in Poland, and Poland has moved further down an autocratic path.

Specifically, the government of Poland has attempted to undermine the independence of the judiciary, and thus the rule of law in the country. They have forced judges into early retirement and packed the ‘Constitutional Tribunal’ with party cronies. It has gradually undermined transparency, accountability, and democracy in the country.

Poland has been on a collision course with the EU Commission and all of the other countries in Europe (except for Hungary, which supports them ), who have openly criticised the corrupt and repressive administration. They have now declared that the laws of Poland are supreme over EU law and the EU treaties. It is openly leading to a huge revolt, which our Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke out strongly against at a recent European Council meeting. Should Europe openly defy the edicts of Poland, and in that way refuse monies which Poland is due to get in the amount of €23 billion in EU grants with access to a further €34 billion in cheap loans?

This is very tricky because we know that the Polish people are basically pro-Europe. Many readers will know Polish people in their community as friends, neighbours, or co-workers. They are extremely hardworking and have given much back to our country in hard work and diligence.

So should Europe adopt a soft line and hope to cajole them out of their growing row with Europe, or should Europe come the heavy and deny them the monies they are due? That’s where we now stand, and it is very important that the correct line be adopted. Europe does not want to see another country leaving the EU such as the UK did. So let’s watch this space from now on.

The heady days of sunshine and roses back in May 2004 are rapidly dissipating.

Goodness knows, we have enough difficulties going on at home. Readers will be aware of the targeting by malcontents of the homes of politicians, in particular Leo Varadkar, Stephen Donnelly, and Simon Harris. At all of their homes, crowds have gathered shouting the names of the Ministers and in some cases shouting homophobic abuse. This is completely wrong. Private homes of politicians should be out of bounds for all types of protest. Yes, peaceful protest is of course allowable and proper, but outside the workplace, not outside people’s private homes. This is intolerable and must be stopped.

We had plenty of good rugby over the weekend, Leinster coasting to an easy win over Glasgow Warriors and Ospreys getting the better of Munster. But the huge, wonderful game was Connacht versus Ulster on Saturday. The score was Connacht 36-Ulster 11. This fairly broke into Ulster’s unbroken record, and was a huge boost for Connacht. The whole team played magnificently. Jack Carty was captain and the team played as if possessed, with try after try, wonderful passing between the players, and Jack Carty taking control as the number 10 and as the captain was wonderful to see. I so hope that when the international panel is being picked that he is on the team.

It was an interesting weekend for the two Carty brothers, Jack and Luke. As we know, Jack was a huge contributor to Connacht’s victory over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium. As well as being such as all-rounder, he himself scored 11 points. His brother Luke is five years younger and was playing outhalf for the US Eagles team, beaten by New Zealand in Maryland. The Carty name is spreading far and wide!

I’m giving an early warning to the readers: this Saturday, the clocks change. I hate when they change because everything seems darker and much more like winter. In the meantime, we are sort of fooling ourselves into believing that it’s still fine and dandy as some of the days in October have been wonderfully sunny and mild. But come next Saturday, back go the clocks and winter will be in. You have been warned!

So, everything has opened up. It seems to me that the Government and the health authorities have decided that it is up to everyone individually, and it is their own responsibility to cope with what is happening health-wise. I hope it will work out satisfactorily in the end. However, it is indeed up to everyone to observe carefully the different health protocols.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week. In the meantime, take care and stay safe.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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