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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
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A festschrift for Anthony Coughlan: Essays on sovereignty and democracy, edited by Frank Keoghan, Ruan O’Donnell & Michael Quinn, hardback, 159 pages, ISBN 978-0-09955975-2-5, Iontas Press, 2018.

A-Coughlan A festschrift for Anthony Coughlan

Anthony Coughlan is known to most of us for his heroic work for the National Platform of Ireland, which campaigns for Ireland's independence from the EU.

As Michael Quinn writes, "He has tirelessly campaigned against the centralising and unaccountable EU bureaucracy; articulating instead the alternative case for a Europe of independent and co-operating nation states as the most effective means to impose social control on private capital and multinational corporations."

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times commented, "Within the eurozone, power is now concentrated in the hands of the governments of the creditor countries, principally Germany, and a trio of unelected bureaucracies – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The peoples of adversely affected countries have no influence upon them. The politicians notionally accountable to them are powerless. This divorce between accountability and power strikes at the heart of democratic governance."

As Quinn observes, "Importantly, because Ireland had ceded control over its exchange rate, the full burden of adjustment fell on the labour market and public services. It's important not to fall victim to political amnesia – not to minimise the appalling short-termism of austerity, its social consequences and the extent to which – to take just one example – it empowered global vulture funds to profit from the social consequences of homelessness, part of the legacy of the crisis."

Tony and his partner Muriel share their "perspective on civil rights, the 'Euroisation' of Ireland and neutrality, embracing their life together and their shared struggle for sovereignty, independence, and neutrality in this state"

Patricia McKenna, who in 1995 succeeded in a supreme court challenge to government spending of taxpayers' money on one-sided propaganda in a referendum, writes, "on appeal the supreme court held that the government was indeed in breach of the constitution if it used public monies to fund a propaganda campaign aimed at persuading voters to vote in a particular way in a referendum. Hamilton C.J. held, 'The use by the government of public funds to fund a campaign designed to influence the voters in favour of a Yes-vote is an interference with the democratic process and the constitutional process for the amendment of the constitution and infringes the concept of equality which is fundamental to the democratic nature of the state,'" Use of public money opens the way for private money to be similarly used.

Eoghan O'Neill writes, "the causes of the Irish financial crisis extend far beyond bad banking practices, sleep at the wheel regulators, and bad government policies. These came about due to Ireland adopting the euro, Ireland setting up the IFSC [International Financial Services Centre] , Ireland joining the EEC/EU and ratifying the treaties which effectively tied the Irish state to capitalist development and Ireland abandoning any indigenous industrial at the mercy and service of US and European imperialist interests. All these decisions were taken by, agreed upon, and lobbied for by successive Irish governments of all colours. Accordingly, all established political parties are complicit in the crisis, regardless of who was in power on the day of the bank guarantee."

He continues, "once the banking system was bailed out by the taxpayer in 2008, permanent indebtedness followed."

Eddie Cowman writes of the annual Desmond Greaves Schools, "At its heart, the enduring success of the school has been its adherence to the great four themes of Greaves's work: political activism, Irish historiography, civil rights in Northern Ireland, and opposition to the process of European integration."

Eoin Ó Murchú writes in the book's brilliant final essay, "Irish democrats warned that joining the EEC would lead us down the slippery path of becoming a subservient province of a revived imperialist Europe … For the ruling class, residual notions of Irish freedom were subsumed into the strategy that we should look for more Brussels as a means of having less Britain. So, without debate as to the long-term implications – indeed by denying there were any long-term implications – the ruling class led us down a path of greater and greater European integration, with its united foreign policy and its development of a European Army, for which PESCO [Permanent Structured Cooperation] is a critical first step."

As he observes, "Foreign direct investment provides invaluable support at critical times, but to depend on it is a recipe for continual weakness and to continuing emigration that has been our lot in every decade since independence apart from the brief period of the Celtic Tiger boom. It is the Irish state that we must look to for the creation of jobs as well as the seeking out of markets. In that regard we need new deals with both the EU and Britain. We certainly cannot rely on the EU to negotiate our long-term relationship with Britain for us. Leaving the EU does not necessarily mean losing all and any access to its markets, but it does mean taking control again of the decisions that are most vital for us."

He concludes, "Just as keeping the link with sterling restricted the potential of industrialisation in the 1930s, and as membership of the euro exacerbated the housing bubble and bank crash related crises, it is as an independent state with an independent currency, seeking trade and markets on all sides that our future lies: trade and markets with Britain, with Europe, with Russia, with China, with America, with Asia and with Africa. And if the property classes don't have the courage for such an effort then once again it is left to the Irish working class to pick up the mantle of Connolly and strike for our freedom." 

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