Minister of State and Kildare South Fine Gael T.D. Martin Heydon has today (Tuesday) marked 50 years since Ireland voted to join the European Economic Community (EEC) with a visit to Moone National School.

Reflecting on 10 May 1972, when 83% of Irish people voted in favour of EEC membership, Minister Heydon said: “It is 50 years since that courageous decision by the Irish people, one of the most important events in modern Irish history. We had just gained our independence 50 years before that.

“There is no doubt that the decision to join the then EEC has brought transformative and positive change to all aspects of Irish society. The EU has been a catalyst in the creation of the prosperous, progressive and peaceful Ireland we live in today and Ireland is proud to contribute to today’s European Union.”

On his visit to Scoil Naisiunta Colmcill Naofa Minister Heydon was joined by Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of the Czech Republic Filip Vurm to hear from students on what Europe means to them and to answer their questions on Europe’s future.

Ireland played an important role in the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU having held the EU presidency when it along with nine other countries joined the bloc in May 2004 in what was the largest ever enlargement.

Minister Heydon added: “In Ireland, we know the benefits membership of the EU can bring and we have always been strong supporters of helping other European countries on that journey too. In speaking to the students here this morning it was great to be able to compare and contrast the experiences of both our countries.

“Europe Day commemorates the signing of the ‘Schuman Declaration’ on 9 May 1950 which was an ambitious plan to secure long-term peace in post-war Europe. At this time of tragic conflict on the continent of Europe it is more important than ever that the Union is united and internally strong.

“We must never take for granted those fundamental European Union democratic freedoms and values that the people of Ukraine are fighting for.”