By definition, the benefits of the European Union are historical. For Ireland, membership has undoubtedly been tremendously beneficial and useful. The evidence suggests that the efforts to make a political union have been extremely successful.
It is easy to be emotionally pro-European for the reasons I outlined. However, it is difficult to be honest about the reasons for the sluggishness of the European economy. I do not know the answer. It must be possible to ask whether the European Union is a factor in this.
The world’s two great economies, Europe and the United States, are moving at different speeds. We must ask whether the great European expressions which Senator Ormonde discussed and to which we pay tribute, such as proportionality and subsidiarity, are in some way stifling the European economy or whether the ideal of a social economy may somehow suppress European development and growth. This issue has not been addressed in this House. We must then ask how Ireland benefits economically. Ireland apparently benefited from both the European and the US economies. We benefit greatly from the European economy due, I suppose, to low interest rates. This country has boomed for the past seven or eight years, partially because low interest rates have allowed people to borrow large sums of money.
What will this constitution do for Ireland? I see what the European Union has done for Ireland in the past. It has been fantastic and a net payer to us. I n the past, we have been enthusiastic Europeans because we received money from the arrangement. The moment we saw that the money was disappearing, we voted against the Nice treaty.
If this constitution is to be passed, a hard rather than soft sell is needed from the Minister. He said there is no need to be frightened because the changes will not be significant. This is a soft sell which asks that people vote yes because they will not be injured by so doing.
We need to know the positive elements for us or we will enter a vacuum of a campaign which may end in defeat because those who are negative will raise the same taboos as before. The Minister’s speech betrayed a lack of conviction about the specific benefits for Ireland, while making a good historical case for past benefits.