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The Irish Civil Service and the Creation of a European Policy

Martin Wall

This paper will use archival sources to analyse discussions within the Irish government in early 1973 which were crucial to the development of Ireland's European policy. Ireland's position as the weakest member of the European Economic Community (EEC) with an overbearing relationship with the UK was the context in which its preferences were formed. Three priorities emerged. The first, the need to secure financial transfers and benefit economically from the EEC, had been apparent since the establishment of the Common Agricultural Policy in the early 1960s. This leads to the second priority which was to establish Ireland as a positive member state that was enthusiastic about membership. This was necessary to offset the image that Ireland was solely in the EEC for what economic gains it offered. The subsequent decision to give the Department of Foreign Affairs the role of coordinating department over the Department of Finance was therefore highly significant. The final priority was to ensure that Ireland, despite its accession being contingent on that of the UK, was not viewed as an appendage of its larger neighbour. These priorities, which came into focus around the time of Ireland's accession have interacted with various degrees of influence depending on the period, policy issue or debate at stake during the last forty years. This paper will examine internal debates to demonstrate how the first two priorities were formed within the Irish government. The consequences of these debates have had a lasting impact on Ireland's European policy and on the policies of the EEC/EU.

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