The Foundation of European Movement Ireland

On 11 January 1954, the Irish Council of the European Movement (later to become ‘European Movement Ireland’) was founded in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin. EM Ireland is the longest-established Irish organisation dedicated to dealing with EU affairs.

Our Story

10 August 1948

A Polish man called Dr. Joseph Retinger visited Dublin with the intention of persuading Ireland to set up a national branch of a European-wide organisation, then called the European Movement (EM), now known as European Movement International.

23 August 1948

Retinger was advised to meet Professor Michael Tierney, who was then the President of University College Dublin. They decided to form an Irish Council in time for the inaugural EM conference in Oct 1948. They did not succeed but efforts to form a council continued.

11 March 1952

One of the European Movement’s general objectives was to engage with young people in Europe. The European Movement cooperated with the European Youth Campaign. On 11 March 1952, Georges Rebattet (who took over from Retinger as European Movement Secretary General) oversaw the formation of an Irish European Youth Campaign.

5 May 1953

The European Youth Campaign opened new doors for Rebattet, George Coyle – a member of the Irish European Youth Campaign – wrote to Rebattet recommending a lecturer, Dr Donal O’Sullivan. George tells Rebattet in his letter that “he (Dr Donal O’Sullivan) is intensely interested in all projects” regarding Europe.

30 October 1953

Dr O’Sullivan informs Rebattet that he has met with Sean MacBride T.D., Dr Declan Costello T.D., and George Coyle, and they have “decided to form an Irish branch of the European Movement”. They planned to consider names for various officer roles on 15 December 1953.

11 January 1954

“To formally inaugurate the branch”, 100 people convened in the Shelbourne Hotel to officially form the Irish Council of the European Movement. Now known today as European Movement Ireland.
. . .

For me personally, one of the most important things is that I believe this involvement (forming European Movement Ireland) will create a new awareness of ourselves as Europeans and as Irish people; that is, through Europe we will find ourselves. Before our very eyes, we are watching the birth of modern Ireland. Our background and history gives us a unique position in this continent.

By becoming intellectually involved with Europe, we will be educating our country from infancy to adulthood and giving service to the making of modern Ireland.

– Dennis Corboy (The Shelbourne, 11 January 1954)

Some of the documents from our archives in University College Dublin (UCD). This collection was originally housed in the library of the University of Limerick from where it was transferred to UCD Archives in November 2003. To find out more.