The European Union needs to prepare for the prospect of a united Ireland, Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú has told the penultimate meeting of the Conference of the Future of Europe (CoFoE).
The Dundalk TD was in Strasbourg recently with EU parliamentarians to discuss the papers generated by civic, citizens engagement across Europe on a variety of topics, including the EU in the World. He is a member of this working group.
Speaking at the plenary sessions in Strasbourg, the Sinn Féin TD said the national parliamentarians had met about the recommendations ‘to deal with certain things that are coming down the line – Irish unity and Scottish independence’.
He spoke about the Ireland’s Future civic group and their engagements across Ireland and said they were carrying out ‘a huge amount of engagement with citizens’.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘I think that needs to be communicated into this process from the point of view of the fact that these conversations are happening.
‘This is going to happen. It is in the document at the moment, but it needs to be more prominent’.
Deputy Ó Murchú, who is the Sinn Féin spokesperson on broadband strategy, also spoke in Strasbourg about the need for a ‘safe internet’, free from hybrid and cyber threats, and took aim at the social media companies.
He said: ‘We can’t operate without a safe internet, particularly for remote working. Hackers are hard at work, and we had a huge cyber attack on the health system in Ireland last year.
‘Very few people realise how the social media algorithms work, but they can be weaponised and used by states and connected networks to do real, real harm’.
He added that Europe also has to do more to bridge the ‘digital divide’, which is connected to poverty.
He said: ‘There needs to be family and community support in order to make connections to digital skill sets as well as education and employment for people who are not as privileged’.
In his final submission, Deputy Ó Murchú said the crisis in Ukraine had brought sharp focus on the need for energy and food security.
He said there needs to be greater engagement with farmers in Ireland, and around Europe, ‘in order to get the buy-in for the changes that are needed to ensure we have a sustainable food supply’.
Mitigations on the VAT rate for fuel, including home heating oil, are needed from the EU, but in the longer term, ‘States have to do the heavy lifting when it comes to renewable energy’.