Fianna Fáil Seanad Group Leader, Catherine Ardagh has said that despite the passing of 60 years, the vision and idealism that founded the European Union is needed now more than ever by EU leaders.

Senator Ardagh joined representatives of other member states at the Conference of Speakers of EU Parliaments held in Rome last weekend to mark the 60th Anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome which laid the foundations of the European Union.

Speaking in the Seanad earlier this week the Senator said, “For over 60 years European member states have worked closely together to forge the longest period of peace and prosperity that the continent has come to know.

“The economic and social benefits of membership of the European Union have been incalculable for Ireland since joining in 1973. The visible investment that the EU have put into our roads network, the opportunities presented for indigenous business, the rise of intra-European tourism due to low cost travel and the ease of mobility for European citizens to study and work across Europe are just some of the benefits the people of Ireland have witnessed.

“This historic milestone falls during a time which is particularly complex in light of the internal and external challenges that face the union. This has materialised in a Brexit Referendum and in a matter of days the British Prime Minister will trigger article 50 in a planned exit from the union.

“Millions of people are abandoning their countries of origin and fleeing oppressive regimes, wars and grave political strains, climate disasters, poor economic prospects and looking for a bright future in Europe.

“Unfortunately this flow of people has engendered fear in many across the continent and was as we saw during the Brexit campaign, one of the main stimuli for Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. I believe that this reaction was amiss and as a result of unwarranted fear.

“Europe is undoubtedly experiencing a period of change but the benefits of Ireland’s membership far outweigh any ill-perceived concerns regarding the role or expectation of the Union.

“I look forward to participating in the Seanad Brexit Chamber to examine our role as a member state and to contribute to the important debate on the path Europe will take post-Brexit,” concluded Senator Ardagh.