Minister Thomas Byrne addresses EMI European of The Year Award Ceremony for Michel Barnier

Published on: 21 January 2021

Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne TD addressed the European Movement Ireland’s European of The Year Award Ceremony for Michel Barnier earlier today. The annual award recognises and pays tribute to individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to developing the connections and relationship between Ireland and Europe. 

Michael Barnier was the 2020 recipient, achieving the award for his work and leadership as the Head of the Task Force for EU Relations with the UK. Addressing the online event, Minister Byrne said “much has been made of your contribution to the EU’s unity, solidarity and clarity during a challenging four years of Brexit negotiations. I would like to take this opportunity to add my own words of gratitude to the much-deserved chorus of plaudits”.

Naturally the focus of the ceremony was on Mr. Barnier’s strong stewardship of the EU’s Brexit Negotiations and the achievement of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the UK, however Minister Byrne also highlighted his previous contribution to Europe and the depth thereof “your roles as Commissioner for Regional Policy and Commissioner for Internal Market and Services together with your terms as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for European Affairs and Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries speak for themselves. Undoubtedly this wealth of experience has stood you in good stead in the face of the huge and wide-ranging change that Brexit brings”.    

This is the first time the EMI have given the award to someone outside of Ireland and in his acceptance speech, Mr. Barnier said that he “felt more than just a little bit Irish”.

Minister Byrne also emphasised Mr. Barnier’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that the principles of the European Union and the interests of its member states, not least of all Ireland’s, were protected at every juncture of the negotiation process.  “Above all, your recognition that the European Union has always been, at its heart, a project of peace was demonstrated in your deep personal commitment to ensuring that the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland were recognised and the achievements of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement were protected” Minister Byrne said.