Thursday 16-06-2016 - 17:41
The European Union came into existence at a time of grave uncertainty within the world. The idea of mutual respect, cooperation and ultimately, peaceful coexistence, were at the heart of the project that would bring nations together for generations to come.
Northern Ireland knows the price of peace all too well, the increasingly cohesive society we have here today and the political stability that we enjoy were hard won and our politicians, civic society and our citizens continue to shape and sustain that.
In that context, I think it’s important to recognise that whilst much of the discussion and debate in relation to the EU referendum, even at this late stage of the campaign, has focused almost entirely on a number of specific issues, such as the economy or immigration, we must too recognise that the question of leaving or remaining in the EU requires a much broader, and much deeper consideration.
The generation to which I belong were born into the global peace and stability that the European Union helped to forge. So to, the generation to which I belong were born into the local peace in Northern Ireland that so many here helped to forge. We cannot ignore the role that the European Union has played in supporting our collective and ongoing commitment to reconciliation and developing a society based on those same principles of mutual respect, cooperation and peaceful coexistence espoused so clearly in the early days of the EU.
But it’s also because of these things, and the context of the progress that we’ve made in Northern Ireland that I’m proud to have a world view which places greater value on the quality of our international cooperation and solidarity rather than some skewed perception of sovereignty. For me, much of the rhetoric that’s been thrown at the electorate from pro-leave campaigners has encapsulated a mindset which reflects the sentiment of “how can we get the most from the rest of the world whilst giving the absolute minimum of ourselves.” I’ll let you make up your own mind about that, but it doesn’t seem like a very progressive position to me.
Since the Second World War the European Union has consistently been a force for good within the world. Admittedly, it looks a bit different today than it did back then, but it is still shaping a better world for all of us whether we admit it or not. From facilitating the free movement of 15,000 UK students to study abroad every year, to the €1 billion worth of EU funding our UK Universities receive annually, to bringing EU member states together to deal with huge global issues like climate change. For these reasons and so many, many more it’s clear to me that we’re #StrongerIN.