On Thursday, 30 January Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin gave a speech at the Institute for International and European Affairs in Dublin on the future of Ireland after Brexit, and the opportunities that surround the upcoming February election for a renewed Ireland.
Martin began by speaking on Irish domestic policy, and how Fianna Fáil is dedicated to forming a government that tackles urgent social problems such as achieving progress in health services and investing in affordable housing in order to alleviate pressure on communities and families across Ireland. Martin also stressed the importance of ensuring that Ireland’s economy is strong and can adapt to the changes that will come at the end of 2020 when the United Kingdom’s Withdrawal Agreement expires. In order to offset the permanent cut to Irish growth prospects that would happen with a hard Brexit, Martin stated that diversifying Irish markets and products is key as well as ensuring that all companies, especially indigenous businesses, complete the basic registration requirements to trade with the UK after it leaves the Single Market and Customs Union.
On an international level, Martin said that Ireland needs a strong international legal framework for trade that will allow the country to support new agreements which are consistent with Ireland’s social and environmental goals. The final piece of domestic policy mentioned by Martin is the creation of a new ministry, the Department of Higher Education & Research, that would kick-start Ireland’s drive to be a world-leader in innovation by increasing funding for higher education systems and investing more to help disadvantaged communities. The goal of this new department is to ensure that, “everyone’s skills and ideas are harnessed to return Ireland to a place leading development in advanced research.”
Martin then moved on to discuss the implications of Brexit on Northern Ireland and wider Irish-UK relations. He stressed the importance of acting with maximum urgency to make sure that Northern Irish residents retain their right to EU citizenship and that Northern Ireland retains its status as a special economic area. Regarding Irish-UK relations, Martin said that Fianna Fáil is dedicated to developing bi-lateral bodies in order to build a positive and constructive relationship with the UK government in London, and that an enhanced ministerial forum for bilateral relations is essential to have in order to maintain the Common Travel Area and to avoid problems that will inevitably arise from the UK’s departure at the end of the year.
Lastly, Martin spoke on the future of the European Union and how Ireland and Fianna Fáil can play an active role in strengthening and reforming the EU. Areas for reform that were mentioned include creating a larger budget resource beyond the 1% which is currently required to encourage high level research and innovation, and to reverse the zero-sum approach countries take towards important policies in order to fund others, with the Common Agricultural Policy being a prime example. Martin also stated that the Banking Union must become fully complete, while allowing each member state to retain the reasonable opportunity to grow and prosper. In order to build a stronger EU, Martin emphasized the need to return to a common purpose based on defending the core European values of democracy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law. Building mutual respect between member states and having an EU that enables states instead of controlling them is the key to securing European legitimacy in the post-Brexit world, Martin said. Looking to the future for Fianna Fáil, Martin concluded that a strong Ireland is an “Ireland that gets off the sidelines and helps Europe to move on from Brexit.”
Access the speech in full here.