Addressing the Young Fine Gael Summer School this weekend, Fine Gael Dublin Rathdown Senator Neale Richmond has urged the Irish Government and Irish society to embrace the positives of Europe in the post Brexit age.
“Before joining the then EEC Ireland was wholly tied to the UK economically, socially and politically. Our involvement in the European process has allowed Ireland to mature into a modern, strong democracy.
“In a post Brexit world, Ireland is now best placed to take advantage of shared histories and commonalities with the UK, the US, the Commonwealth and especially the EU. We can cherry pick the best attributes of their economic and political systems.
“We need to look again at our system of Local Government; we missed a great opportunity by not pushing on with a directly elected Mayor for Dublin.
“The way we currently elect our MEPs puts then at a huge disadvantage to their continental colleagues, who use the list system. A single, 11 seat, Ireland constituency, elected through the list system would normalise this.
“There are other areas that we to at least have to have a frank, mature, discussion about. Areas that before we were too quick to not even talk about:
- We could look again at our neutral status, maybe cooperate better with other European armed forces, if not maybe even ultimately look at joining NATO.
- Should we increase voter turnout through a mandatory voting system like Belgium, with automatic voter register through the PPS system?
- Could we copy our Nordic cousins, by introducing a civic orientated system of national service for all 18 year olds and applicants for citizenship?
- Do we have a truly progressive tax system? Surely we could increase the threshold of where the higher rate tax band kicks in?
“Brexit brings with it massive challenges, but we must also look at the opportunities. These opportunities will certainly come in terms of jobs and the attraction of certain industries, such as financial services exiles from London. However much of this could simply be offset by the expected wider economic difficulties.
“We must and can work through the post Brexit difficulties, but we must also embrace the positives, the wider positives in place across Europe.”