The Historical Development of Irish Euroscepticism to 2001

Author: Troy Piechnick

Piechnick, Troy, 2017 The Historical Development of Irish Euroscepticism to 2001, Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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Why is it that the start of Irish euroscepticism is considered to be in 2001 with the defeat of the first Treaty of Nice? Is it possible a longer history of anti-European thought existed in Ireland? When did it actually begin? Has it changed in any way? Who represented a sceptical point of view towards Europe prior to 2001? The answers to these questions revise a historical discourse that has largely failed to account for what transpired in the past within Ireland. The political process of Ireland’s willing and committed integration into the European Economic Community (EEC) makes fundamental sense in the context of supranationalism. But who has documented this one-sided historical narrative? And to what purpose? The aim of this study is to analyse critically a range of primary source materials to demonstrate and account for the existence of euroscepticism in Ireland prior to 2001 and to trace its historical development to that point. The research will show that antecedents to Irish euroscepticism which manifested powerfully in 2001 can be found and ascertained, even if they are not generally acknowledged in studies of Irish politics. These anti-Europe developments are not just a contemporary phenomenon (although more widespread in 2001); rather, they can be traced along chronological lines to reveal a deeper historical source. The first historical period revealing antecedents of euroscepticism can be located in the process of decolonisation of Ireland from Britain at the turn of the 19th century. The second source of Irish anti-European feeling revolves around the Treaty of Rome debate and the failed applications for membership in 1961 and 1967. The third basis is situated in the EEC referendum debate and the lead up to the 1972 vote on membership. After successfully joining the EEC in 1973, anti-European sentiment again emerged, and can be clearly identified at the time of the Single European Act 1987, in the lead up to the Maastricht Treaty (1992), and finally, in time for the Amsterdam Treaty (1999), where a ‘softer’ approach to this resentment can finally be accounted for. An understanding of the history of Irish euroscepticism helps to explain its contemporary manifestations.

Keywords: Ireland, Europe, Euroscepticism

Subject: History thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Peter Monteath