As part of the EU50 programme and in advance of Europe Day, the Minister together with the Dutch ambassador, Adriaan Palm, has visited Gort Community School to talk about the European Union, national differences and unity.
As the ambassador noted, the performance of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy by the pupils beautifully symbolised the EU’s essence where diverse elements flourish when joined together.
Beyond cooperation, the ambassador emphasised the importance of learning from other EU states, pointing out to the Netherlands’ successful cycling culture as a sustainable mode of transport.
While acknowledging the challenges faced by Ireland, such as winding country roads and high-speed traffic, he viewed it as an opportunity to create safer conditions for cycling by developing bike lanes and potentially lowering speed limits in certain areas, to make it safe for kids to bike to their schools.
Principal Brian Crossan stated how innovative and sustainable local projects and initiatives are often overlooked: the focus, he feels, is too often on what should be done, rather than what is already being done.
Ambassador Palm endorsed this, arguing that we need to speak of Europe from a position of strength and responsibility, by looking at opportunities rather than problems.
The Minister reinforced this by arguing that the local link should be expanded. She illustrated by various local projects that are funded by EU transition funds, which support regions within member states in their transition towards a more sustainable and resilient economy.
The fruitful visit of the Minister and Dutch ambassador to Gort Community School provided an insightful perspective on the European Union and its unifying strength, underscoring the potential for shared learning within the European Union.
The visit emphasised the importance of recognising and celebrating existing innovative and sustainable local projects, while also encouraging a shift in focus towards opportunities rather than problems when discussing Europe.