Wednesday 15 June 2016

Comment: Left Behind by Rex Lee

Left Behind

by Rex Lee

In the 70's, if you were young and attached to an organisation that had a partner in the European Economic Community (EEC), the world was your oyster. However, because the whole concept of a united Europe was still in the future, we were not fully aware of the possibilities presented. We argued fiercely, as only the very young could do, secure in the knowledge that it would, time after time, produce the right prescription for our new world.

A couple of years after the second opening to the EEC, which allowed Ireland, Britain and Denmark to enter the community and a few years before the accession of Spain, Portugal and Greece, I, along with most of the members of our local Macra na Feirme club, visited the Austrian Tyrol. Austrian EEC membership would, however, have to wait two further openings.

We were impressed with Austria, with its web of autobahns and flyovers, though there was a certain incongruity in the fact that each morning, on leaving our pension (boarding house or lodgings), we would see an elderly woman pushing a wheelbarrow of manure down an autobahn. We pondered this yet failed to furnish a suitable explanation. Why had the lady with the headscarf to do what she did? Only later did we realise that a few years previously, Innsbruck had hosted the Winter Olympics: hence, all the autobahns and flyovers. Most of the population had been left behind however.

I found that the Europeans shared an interest in both myself and my colleagues. This was obvious from the many conferences I attended. My fellow countrymen and I got a very warm reception from our counterparts. They were interested in the country we came from – and in us as individuals. After centuries of separation and non-involvement with the world, Ireland had come in from the cold. These Europeans listened to our opinions and demands, even when they were excessive.

It is sad that forty years later, Britain is thinking about leaving the European Union, having been a partner with us in this great adventure. Ireland has benefited enormously and surprised many by emerging as one of the most dynamic economies of Europe, from being one of the most sluggish. We have also progressed enormously on social grounds: the position of the disabled and of women has been greatly enhanced.
Melodies at Eventide by Rex Lee

Rex Lee is an author, film-maker, activist and campaigner on behalf of disabled people. His autobiography, Melodies at Eventide, was published earlier this year by The Manuscript Publisher (ISBN: 978-0-9576729-7-0). It is available to buy online, in print and e-book editions.

1 comment:

  1. Despite his disabilities Rex achieved much in his local community and also contributed to the development of the E.U.


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