10 March 2022: People in Donegal gathered tonight to discuss and debate issues of importance to them as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, a Europe-wide initiative to involve people throughout Europe in a debate about the EU’s future challenges and priorities. The meeting was announced after a series of consultations across the country identified Ireland’s priorities for what Europe should look like going forward.
At the meeting, organised by European Movement Ireland and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs, in the Abbey Hotel in Donegal town, participants discussed issues around health, fundamental rights and the rule of law, and the economy.
In relation to the topic of health, participants raised concerns about cybersecurity, specifically the safety of information shared online in relation to health care and records. Attendees called for greater equality of health care and treatment across borders and for broader access to health care for EU patients across all EU Member States. Further, those in attendance called for the EU to ensure that the voices of older people be heard in discussions about the future of health care in Europe.
Participants also highlighted the importance of the sharing of resources and best practice across EU countries and called for increased information-sharing more generally across the EU. Some participants also felt that people in Northern Ireland received continued support from the EU.
In relation to fundamental rights and the rule of law, participants raised concerns about the recent increased spread of disinformation, and called for greater education of EU citizens about the EU’s role in relation to the rule of law.
Finally, many of those in attendance said that they felt compelled to participate in a meeting like this, and voice their ideas and concerns, in light of the current devastation in Ukraine. Access to factual information and freedom of speech, a key European value, were also raised in discussions, the importance of both, participants said, was highlighted by recent developments in Russia and Ukraine.
Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne TD commented,
“It is tremendously positive that this kind of engagement can once again take place in person and I was delighted to engage with people in Donegal at this evening’s event. The Conference on the Future of Europe is an unprecedented and valuable opportunity for citizens right across Europe to make their voices heard about the future direction of our Union. So, from Gdańsk to Galway, from Vilnius to Virginia, we’re having discussions about the future of our European Union.
“Ireland has always been a strong advocate for citizen engagement within the EU and we view the Conference in a very positive light. Indeed, it is fitting that Ireland is now partaking in a reflection exercise like the Conference as we mark 50 years of Ireland’s membership of the European Union across 2022 and 2023. The Conference gives an opportunity to discuss all aspects of EU membership, to assess the benefits, consider what the EU has done well and just as importantly, to identify where there are gaps or where it could do better.”
Donegal County Councillor Tom Conaghan also met with attendees and joined discussions at the event.
CEO of EM Ireland, Noelle O Connell commented,
“This town hall meeting in Donegal provided a great opportunity for people who care about the future of Ireland in the EU to engage in a meaningful, open discussion from a variety of different perspectives. I was delighted to hear such enthusiastic engagement from people in Donegal on key issues for Europe’s future, including fundamental rights and the rule of law, the economy and health. We greatly look forward to continuing these meetings around Ireland, our next in Dublin on 31 March. We’re grateful that people are willing to share their time to engage in this process. It is a unique opportunity where people in Ireland can have their voice heard on future opportunities and challenges facing Europe.”
EM Ireland is a key organisation involved in engaging with Irish citizens as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe , a pan-European, bottom-up project to shape and guide political change across the EU. The goal of the Conference is to improve EU engagement with its citizens and create a forum where we have the opportunity to shape what the EU might look like in the future.
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- Photographs issued by / credit: Clive Wasson clive.ie .
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- About European Movement Ireland: Founded in 1954, European Movement (EM) Ireland is the longest established Irish NGO working on European affairs. An independent, not-for-profit, membership organisation, EM Ireland works to develop the connection between Ireland and the European Union. We facilitate links between all sectors of Irish society and the EU, through advocacy campaigns, education programmes, training courses, information briefings and networking events. For more information, visit europeanmovement.ie.
- EM Ireland is a key organisation involved in engaging with Irish citizens as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe in Ireland. European Movement Ireland’s work involves regularly engaging in conversations about Europe with people living in Ireland. EM Ireland’s core work is to ensure that citizens have the tools to engage with the EU and European issues. Read more about the Conference on the Future of Europe here.