Dr Walsh said: "Michael Collins, were he around today, would put the fear of God into those who abuse their secure positions and fail to put Ireland first at this time of crisis"
"EUROPEAN states, especially those with economic difficulties, must have some reason to worry that the old bossy self-serving traits of Germany, and France to some extent, are re-emerging, and, if they are not restrained, may result in a European Union dominated by both in a way that was never intended by Monnet or Schuman."
So spoke, Dr Ed Walsh, Founding President of the University of Limerick, who gave the oration at the annual Michael Collins commemoration in Béal na mBláth.
In a hard-hitting speech, Dr Walsh argued that Ireland needs to develop strong bargaining chips to get a better deal through strategic alliances and by managing public opinion as regards Germany’s dominant role in the EU.
Dr Walsh, referring to the dire crisis in which Ireland finds itself, spoke of the opportunistic way in which ‘the strong took advantage of the weak’ in the EU bringing us to our knees.
Michael Collins, he said, would be anticipating the skirmishes which lie ahead and thinking of how best to secure bargaining chips that a small state might use in facing down major European powers.
In hindsight, Dr Walsh said, joining the Euro was a ‘dire mistake’ losing Ireland two vital fiscal instruments; setting interest rates and setting currency exchange rates.
Had Ireland stayed outside the Euro, Irish bankers would not have had access to the Eurozone’s vast low-interest borrowing, there would have been no building bubble, no spending splurge and the country would not now be in receivership.
While the problem has been acknowledged as a shared European one, Dr Walsh said there has been no shared equitable European solution for Ireland.
Mainly, German, banks lent recklessly and were receiving a 100% bail out from the Irish tax payer, Dr Walsh said, but it couldn’t work because the Irish economy does not have the capacity to repay and without a new deal will inevitably default.
Michael Collins, Dr Walsh said, would recognise that Germany was calling the shots and that it was at their insistence that the penal terms imposed on us were intended to make an example of us.
The forgiveness and concern for the economic recovery of post war Germany contrasts sorely with the treatment that was meted out to Ireland, he added. Germany should now give leadership in Europe and repay more of its moral debt he said.
Collins would see the need for bargaining chips but would find few, Dr Walsh added.
Conscious of the importance of public opinion and perceptions, Collins, he said, would realise that Ireland must change EU public opinion in such a way that Germany could be made to feel uneasy when overstepping the mark.
‘Public opinion has been kind to Germany, but bitter memories lie dormant that could readily be awakened, if this proved necessary,’ Dr Walsh said.
Nationalistic leadership under chancellor Merkel with the quisling-like support of President Sarkozy now gives cause to recall the old concerns,’ Dr Walsh said.
Small states in Europe, he said, should act with some sense of unison to thwart any moves by large member states to damage their interests.
Ireland’s diaspora could influence public opinion in the US, Canada, Britain and Australia. Michael Collins would have seen the merits of building a creative tension between Washington and Berlin, Dr Walsh added.
Dr Walsh sees relations with Beijing in a similar light, Ireland potentially providing a useful and helpful partner for China in the EU and China giving Ireland a market and bank debt relief. Leverage would come via the importance of Greman exports to China.
‘Dangerous days lie ahead, especially for the vulnerable,’ Dr Walsh told the large gathering.
Europeans, he said, were faced with the most important decisions since those in the aftermath of WWII. One of two outcomes, he said, appeared inevitable – ‘orderly evolution towards a federal Europe or disruptive disintegration with unknown and possibly dire consequences.’