What has the EU Ever Done for Us?


Barry O'Carroll

It’s Friday evening, about tea time. Four middle aged men sit in a dimly lit corner of Flaherty’s Pub. The atmosphere becomes a little tense as our four friends begin to discuss the problems of the day. Sean and Padraig sit on one side of the table sipping their well-deserved post-work refreshments as they’ve done every Friday since as long as anyone can remember. Seamus, the relatively new arrival to the company sits opposite with Marek, from Krakow who has been living in Dublin for a few years now. The subject of the European Union comes up.

Sean So, what do ye think of this Brexit thing?

Padraig Fair play to them I say. We could be next you know. I’m getting mighty fed up with all these EU rules and regulations. You know they’re forcing us to sell straight bananas at the grocers.

Seamus Ah they never did that now Padraig.

Padraig They did. I read it on Friendface. Sure what have the EU ever done for us?


 Sean stares into his pint, deep in though before finally piping up…


Sean The roads.

Padraig What about them?

Sean The roads. What about all that funding Ireland received to build all those new roads across the country? Do you remember what it was like before? It used to take forever to get down to Limerick to see the brother. Now it’s only a couple of hours on the M7. That was all built with EU funds. Sure I saw it on the big signs when they were building it.

Padraig Oh right, I’ll grant you that. They gave us the roads.

Marek And the Euro.

Sean Oh…yes. The Euro, Padraig. Remember what it used to be like when you went on holidays. I could never understand those Spanish potatoes. Now it’s easy to compare the price of a pint when I’m on holidays with the missus. I used to pay 150 potatoes for a pint. Now I pay two euros. It’s great.

Padraig Well yeah. Obviously the Euro. The Euro goes without saying, doesn’t it? But apart from the roads and the Euro, what have the EU ever done for us?

Seamus Well, now it’s easy to live and work in another EU country. Your daughter works in Germany doesn’t she Padraig?

Padraig She does, she’s living in Berlin at the moment working with some computer company. She tells me she’s a Senior Network System Administrator.

Sean And what’s Senior Network System Administrator?

Padraig I don’t know. It’s something to do with the Google or something. I know she loves it over there though. She’s doing very well for herself.

Seamus Well there you go. That would have been a lot more difficult to do before we joined the EU.

Marek Same for me. I was able to find work in Ireland very easily. I had a job within a week. I have exactly the same rights to work as an Irish citizen, like your daughter in Germany.

Padraig Yeah, yeah alright, fair enough. I’ll give you that. Being able to work in another EU country is not bad I suppose.

Sean And travel. It’s easy to travel in any of the countries in the EU. Sure didn’t you drive over to see the daughter in Germany last year Padraig? I bet you didn’t even have to show your passport while driving from France into Germany.

Padraig True enough. I didn’t have to. I’ll give you that. But apart from the roads, the Euro, being able to easily live and work in another EU country and travel freely around Europe, what has the EU ever done for us?

Marek You got sick last year when you were in Germany visiting the daughter didn’t you Padraig?

Padraig I did yeah. I think it was a dodgy pint of that funny German beer.

Marek And did you go to a hospital in Germany?

Padraig I did. I had to go on a drip for a few hours. I was grand the next day though.

Marek And had you any difficulty being seen?

Padraig Well no. I had that Europe Health Insurance Card thing. Ok, I see what you’re doing here. Fair enough, the health care while travelling is decent I suppose.

Seamus And another thing…. I’m just back from a holiday in Spain. Did you know that there’s no roaming charges anymore now? That’s because of the EU you know.

Padraig I didn’t know that, no.

Sean Your brother runs the farm in Limerick doesn’t he Padraig?

Padraig He does. What’s that got to do with the EU?

Sean Did you know that farmers have received over 54 billion euros from the EU because of the Common Agricultural Policy?

Padraig I think I remember the brother saying something about it alright. Fair enough, I’ll give you that one too. But apart from the roads, the Euro, being able to easily live and work in another EU country, travel freely around Europe, health care while travelling, no more roaming charges and the Common Agricultural Policy, what has the EU ever done for us?

Marek The Environment!

Padraig What about it?

Marek You bought a new television last week didn’t you?

Padraig I did. 42 inch flat screen so it is. Great for watching the football. They delivered it to the house and everything.

Marek And what did you do with the old television?

Padraig  They took it away for free. The young lad said they’d recycle it.

Marek The EU brought that in. Did you know that?

Padraig I didn’t, no.

Marek They brought in lots of other consumer rights laws too. Remember your flight home from Germany was delayed because of the snow at Christmas and you got compensation?

Padraig And rightly so too! We were stuck in that airport all day. I missed the Munster match and everything.

Marek Well that was because of new EU laws protecting people travelling.

Padraig Was it now?

Marek And they passed laws to improve working conditions and protect people against discrimination. You have to admit that that’s all pretty useful.

Padraig All right, all right I hear you. I’m still not convinced though. I mean, apart from the Euro, being able to easily live and work in another EU country, travel freely around Europe, health care while travelling, no more roaming charges, the Common Agricultural Policy, improving the Environment, better consumer rights, better working conditions and anti-discriminations laws…….. What has the EU ever done for us?

Marek I give up.

Sean So do I. Let’s change the subject. How are the son’s studies going Padraig?

Padraig Ah great. He’s off to France in October with that Erasmus crowd.


 Seamus leans forward and bangs his head on the table.


The Europe Direct Centre at Blanchardstown Library  is your starting point for finding information about the EU (including the Erasmus programme or the EHIC as mentioned above).  The centre provides access to material covering a wide variety of topics, including:

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