Lord Mayor Brendan Carr says Dublin demands that the EU ‘gets its act together’

Lord Mayor Brendan Carr delivered a wide ranging speech on Dublin's and Ireland’s relationship with the European Union to a meeting of ambassadors to Ireland from members States in the RDS on Thursday, 16th February, in which he called for action in order to stem the rise of the far-right.

In his address, which began with a call for a 'two-way dialogue' between Ireland and other EU States, not only at governmental level, but also others, including local authority and between social and civic organisations.  The Lord Mayor said: “The European Union and Eurozone will be faced with significant and probably era defining challenges during 2017."

“The destructive force of bellicose chauvinistic nationalism has been unleashed once again on our continent. During the coming year we will learn if it has reached its high water mark already, or is still ominously gathering strength in elections in Germany, the Netherlands and perhaps most crucially France.”

He said that the inequality upon which the far-right was feeding must be tackled. He said: “The most effective way to ensure that within societies there is greater cohesion is through the more equal distribution of wealth.

He added that Ireland had been more fortunate than many of its EU partners in that “in recent years we have weathered an economic collapse on a scale only matched by that of Greece, our society damaged but still functioning without turning to the extremes.”

However, he added, “there is no room for complacency” the degree of positive fortune “that Ireland has experienced, will count for nothing if the EU as a whole does not get its act together during 2017. If I have one message to relay from the people of Dublin to decision makers across the continent it is, to make 2017 the year the EU turns the corner from decline and disharmony to a union focused once more on promoting equality, welcoming those in need, and harmony.”

ENDS

For further information contact:

 

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Brendan Carr: 087 207 5921

 

Notes to the Editor

 

Lord Mayor's Speech to EU Ambassadors in the RDS on Thursday, 16th February

I am honoured to address your Excellencies here today. It is of the upmost importance that as EU ambassadors you fulfill your diplomatic duty to not only act as the representative of your State, here in Ireland, but also a conduit through which the true situation and mood of this country can be relayed to decision makers across Europe.

It is essential that such a two-way dialogue is maintained and developed, not only at governmental level, but also all others, including local authority and between social and civic organisations. Unfortunately, we must accept that in the past, despite the hard work of bodies such as the European Parliament Office in Ireland and other groups, this dialogue and understanding of the situation, particularly in States such as Ireland, which have been sorely affected by the economic crisis, has not been at times of the level necessary.

The European Union and Eurozone will be faced with significant and probably era defining challenges during 2017. The destructive force of bellicose chauvinistic nationalism has been unleashed once again on our continent. During the coming year we will learn if it has reached its high water mark already, or is still ominously gathering strength in elections in Germany, the Netherlands and perhaps most crucially France.

We can argue about how the spectre of strident nationalism has once again been summoned up to haunt our continent. Personally, as you might expect from a politician of the social democratic tradition, I believe that the implementation of a one sided austerity policy on the people of Europe as the only response to the crisis by the dominate centre right was a key factor. Others, from other democratic traditions, can place some of the blame on an over emphasis on liberal causes that have resulted in groups, who perceive themselves to be increasingly marginalised, feeling unduly threatened both culturally as well as economically.

Whatever the cause, the malign outcome has been sadly been quite uniform across EU states, from the largely politically irrational Brexit vote in the UK to the rise of openly fascist political parties such as the Golden Dawn in Greece to the rebranded fascism of the National Front in France, the institutions and architecture of the EU has come under withering attack from the right.

These groups have fed into a narrative about immigration and the refugee crisis that emphasis the worst and seeks to encourage the most base of human emotions. “I was sickened to my core when, during the EU referendum campaign in the UK, I witnessed a poster portraying the suffering of men, women and children” forced to become refugees “being used to entice intolerance and hate.”  Such hateful imagery where the suffering of their fellow human beings is used for political gain may unfortunately come to define the upcoming elections across Europe

So whatever the cause there seems to be a depressingly uniform outcome. I believe that there are also common solutions which we must seek to implement of an EU wide level.

There must be reform of the EU parliament and commission, not only must these bodies be transparent and accountable, they must be seen to be. As a democrat I believe this can be most easily achieved by strengthening the role of the European Parliament, giving a more binding character to its decisions and resolutions. This will make voters look at their political choices in a more Pan-European manner – and, hopefully, re-engage with the EU concept.

With the core economies of the EU revitalising there must, as in the 80s and 90s, be a renewed focus on investment on social and regional cohesion. This issue has been largely left unaddressed since the onset of the crisis resulting in concentrations of unemployment, poverty and social exclusion which can be since as corresponding quite closely to, where the malaise of extreme nationalism has arisen.

The most effective way to ensure that within societies there is greater cohesion is through the more equal distribution of wealth. As a trade unionist I know the most effective tools for this are strengthened labour laws and reinvigorating workers right to collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining and the level of trade union organisation required to enable it to take place is the key determinant of the quality of life for the great majority of workers.

It is so because it is in this process and only in it, that workers get to have some say in how the benefits of output are distributed. Even global institutions like the IMF now concede that the exponential growth of inequality which is destroying the very fabric of economic and social systems can be in part attributable to the erosion of collective bargaining ultimately resulting in the decline in living standards of working people.

Across Europe we have seen attacks and the roll back of the right of workers to organise. In Greece where collective bargaining was once the norm this essential element of Europe’s social model is effectively denied to workers. The right removed by bodies including the EU Commission. Such an approach, which leads to the driving down of workers' living standards. has not worked and can not work.

If I may be granted leave to now contradict myself, somewhat -  and as I’m sure you will have learnt during your time in Ireland doing so, even in the one speech, is something that from the Taoiseach to the man or women on the street is what Irish people are prone to do -  the stark grim electoral rise of xenophobic forces, the scapegoating of immigrants and erosion of collectively bargaining rights has not been totally uniform across the EU.

In Ireland in recent years we have weathered an economic collapse on a scale only matched by that of Greece, our society damaged but still functioning without turning to the extremes.

Ireland was the only country in the world to enact legislation increasing collective bargaining rights for workers against the background of the economic collapse of 2008. Indeed, the legal environment for winning collective bargaining rights in the Republic of Ireland is now better than it has ever been before. 

On the political front, Ireland has not seen the electoral rise of malignant forces of the extreme right. Rather, the last election saw a growth in those voting for independent candidates a somewhat exotic collection of characters from the populist left to populist right. Thankfully no party which has won any sizable electoral support has turned to the scapegoating and victimization of our growing immigrant communities which have enriched our society.

However, there is no room for compliancy, this degree of positive fortune in terms of collective bargaining and our electoral choices that Ireland has experienced, will count for nothing if the EU as a whole does not get its act together during 2017. If I have one message to relay from the people of Dublin to decision makers across the continent it is, to make 2017 the year the EU turns the corner from decline and disharmony to a union focused once more on promoting equality, welcoming those in need, and harmony.

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