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Ireland after Brexit – European, now more than ever!

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, © picture alliance

16.05.2020 - Article

Even after Brexit, the EU enjoys greater popularity in Ireland than anywhere else. This also shapes the country’s bilateral relations with Germany on a wide range of issues including the response to COVID‑19.

Huge EU solidarity with Ireland on Brexit

Many people immediately associate Ireland with harps, Celtic crosses, St. Patrick (the country’s patron saint) and shamrock, the national symbol. But the people of Ireland are also well known for their forward-looking pragmatism. Ursula Quill, who works in the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament, is even able to see some positive sides to Brexit. She says that she was impressed and moved by the great solidarity the EU – and particularly Germany – showed towards Ireland in the talks on Brexit and that The EU stood firmly by Ireland’s side as regards safeguarding the open border to Northern Ireland that is so crucial to peace on the island.

Paul McKeon and Ursula Quill in front of Leinster House, seat of the Dáil
Paul McKeon and Ursula Quill in front of Leinster House, seat of the Dáil© Florian Rehli, Auswärtiges Amt

Quill says that Germany can quickly seem like a dominant economic powerhouse to a smaller country like Ireland. In summer 2019, she visited Berlin, Potsdam and Leipzig as part of a group of young professionals – the Emerging Voices Group from the renowned Irish think tank IIEA – at the invitation of the Federal Foreign Office to learn more about Germany and to discuss German-Irish relations. During the meetings, she felt that Ireland was able to discuss the future with Germany as an equal partner. Quill saw that there is huge mutual interest in one another and in a strong European Union. She had a chance to experience that again when she met a delegation of young staff members from the German Bundestag during a visit to the Dáil in October 2019.

Working together to combat coronavirus

Germany and Ireland are working closely together on the global crisis. So far, around 150 Irish citizens have been able to return home from 29 countries on board German repatriation flights. Furthermore, a large number of Irish COVID‑19 tests were processed in German laboratories and German firms in Ireland’s medical sector are working there on the response to the pandemic. This is one of the many signs of European solidarity, which is crucial for European cohesion and the future of the European Union.

Ireland is more pro‑EU than any other member state

According to the current Eurobarometer survey, people in Ireland are more in favour of the EU than any other member state. An overwhelming 81% of Irish people see their country’s EU membership as a “good thing”. Nevertheless, Paul McKeon, who works for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and also took part in the Emerging Voices Group visit to Germany, says that the EU needs to reach more people in Ireland, too, and to convince them about the benefits of EU membership. He would like the EU member states to do more to address disadvantaged groups via inclusive social policy. As regards the pressing global and European challenges, he sees the dawn of a new era in the EU and firmly believes that “now is exactly the right time to strengthen our relations”.

Germany-Ireland Joint Plan of Action – travelling through Ireland on the Deutschmobil

Young people are the priority of the Joint Plan of Action adopted by Germany and Ireland in November 2018. One of the plan’s pillars involves boosting youth exchange through programmes such as the visit to Germany by Ireland’s Emerging Voices Group. Language teaching also plays an important part in furthering bilateral relations. After Brexit, the Irish Government wants to enhance school pupils’ foreign language skills.

Christine Kopke, language teacher, German Academic Exchange Service; Carla Wentzel, Group Managing Director, Volkswagen Group Ireland; Deike Potzel, German Ambassador to Ireland; Michael Hauke, Head of Language Department, Goethe-Institut Ireland and Ralf Lissek, CEO, German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, behind the Deutschmobil
Christine Kopke, language teacher, German Academic Exchange Service; Carla Wentzel, Group Managing Director, Volkswagen Group Ireland; Deike Potzel, German Ambassador to Ireland; Michael Hauke, Head of Language Department, Goethe-Institut Ireland and Ralf Lissek, CEO, German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, behind the Deutschmobil© Auswärtiges Amt

In response to this interest in learning German, the Deutschmobil – a classroom on four wheels – set off again in autumn 2019. Staff can hardly keep up with demand, with the Deutschmobil booked out months in advance. Schools throughout Ireland look forward to the half‑day interactive workshops on German language and culture given by a German language teacher. Interest in learning German is also increasing in Irish ministries. Along with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the German Embassy in Dublin has thus set up a German Language Network where staff from Irish ministries and public authorities can meet regularly to speak German and attend German cultural events together. A prominent guest attended the first reception at the German Ambassador’s residence in Dublin – Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who studied in Würzburg on a German Academic Exchange Service scholarship. After the reception, the guests had a chance to improve their German by binge‑watching the German series “Weissensee”.

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