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We Europeans need to stick together, despite the UK's vote to leave the EU

 

By Canon Walter Lewis

In the Brexit referendum, I voted to remain in the European Union. I did so because much of my life experience led me to an appreciation of my European heritage and identity. I was Irish, British and European.

The history of Ireland is very much bound up with the history of Europe. The Celts, our earliest forebearers, came from Europe. They were followed by the Vikings and the Danes, also from Europe, and the Normans, from France.

In the early centuries of the first millennium, Christianity was brought to the southern coast of Ireland, to Lismore, from Aquitaine in south-west France.

Soon, that was followed by the Christian missionary Bishop, Patrick, from Roman Britain, who may have been influenced by the Church in France.

Indeed, the history of the Church in Ireland is one of inward mission from France, Britain, Scandinavia, followed two centuries later by the Irish monastic outward mission to Europe, pioneered by the saints Columba, Aidan and Columbanus.

These elements illustrate the European heritage on this island.

Indeed, there is no such thing as 'pure' Irish. We are all the sum of many factors, most of them from the continent of Europe.

It is helpful to note that the first settlers in Ireland came from elsewhere. They settled at Mountsandel Fort on the River Bann in 8,300BC. Ten thousand and three hundred years later, the fort is still there and attracts many visitors. It may well be one of the oldest human settlements in the world.

Today, the European background and identity are in evidence in the Republic's and the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union and other European bodies, notwithstanding the effects of Brexit.

Furthermore, the European Churches - Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Methodist, Baptist etc - engage with each other formally and informally at every level and are committed to work together for unity with one another. I mentioned my EU vote at the start. I acknowledge my European identity as a factual condition of life. I respect the views of all who voted for or against Brexit. Certainly, the EU is not without its faults and shortcomings.

It seems to me that many of those who voted Leave decided that centralisation of authority had gone far enough. They were prepared to accept a 'States of a United Europe', but not a 'United States of Europe'. The absence of proper financial accountability was a further unacceptable factor. Unregulated immigration was also an issue.

We are European, whichever way we may have voted in 2016. Can this concept not be grasped by all parties on both sides of the Brexit negotiations? And can both sides not try to work together for the benefit of all?

The present hostilities, especially on the EU side, are contrary to the spirit of 'Europe'.

We are European: our vocation is to support, serve and help one another.

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