Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas,
I am happy and honoured to address both Houses and to greet you, as the representatives of the people of Ireland, in all your political diversity.
I take this honour as a responsibility.
The responsibility to listen to all those who will be affected by the decision of the UK to leave the European Union.
The responsibility to listen to your concerns, build our positions together, negotiate in our common interest.
The responsibility to explain that we need each other: that Ireland is stronger in the Union.
And the EU is stronger with Ireland.
Your country has had deep historical, cultural and intellectual ties to continental Europe for many centuries.
In the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, Irish Colleges were set up around Europe: from Madrid – where I was yesterday –, to Leuven, Paris, Rome and Prague.
They contributed to writing the history of Ireland and the history of Europe. And they spread Irish culture to the continent.
Centuries later, in 1972, the people of Ireland massively voted to take part in the European project.
I was 21 at the time. France had a referendum on the accession of Ireland, the UK, Denmark and Norway.
It was my very first vote. And I campaigned for a “yes” vote.
For the UK’s accession, back then, voting yes was not so easy for a member of the French Gaullist party. But I did it with my full heart.
And I never regretted that vote. I regret that Brexit is happening now.
I would have liked to have seen the UK staying in Europe, with Ireland and all the 26 other Member States. But we are where we are.
Since 1972, we have accomplished great things together. Read Speech in full here