Reflecting on the EU’s past at a time of political uncertainty

12 Jun

As the political sands continue to shift both across Europe and closer to home, the Department of Government and the Glucksman Gallery, University College Cork, are delighted to host a travelling exhibition marking 60 years of the Treaties of Rome, the founding documents of today’s European Union (EU), from 13-18 June 2017. The exhibition, created by the Historical Archives of the EU, tells the story of how and why the European Union was created.


The EU’s birth dates to 1957, just over a decade after the end of the second World War, when former enemies signed the Treaties of Rome. This momentous decision – rooted in an attempt to cement peace between former foes and to rebuild a devastated continent– marked the start of the European integration process.


Ireland, along with the UK and Denmark, was one of the first countries to accede to the six member-state EU in 1973. Irish fortunes have waxed and waned over this period, but membership of the EU has consistently been regarded as one of the most important and significant foreign policy decisions ever made by the Irish state.


The UK decision to leave the EU in 2016 delivered a severe shock to the body politic across Europe. A so-called Brexit has particularly profound consequences for Ireland. The shared land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland means that the island of Ireland is likely to be among the worst affected by the UK withdrawal from the EU. The triggering of Article 50 in March 2017 has done little to assuage Irish concerns or to provide certainty and clarity as to the likely shape and parameters of the UK exit from the EU bloc. 


The outcome of last week’s UK general election has delivered further ambiguity. An unlikely alliance between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) brings Northern Ireland politics centre-stage as the Brexit process unfolds. The subject of EU politics has never been more current.


This exhibition looks back at 60 years of the European Union. It comprises key documents on the institutional and political development of the EU in 1957. It looks at the economic evolution of Europe’s common market from the original provisions of the founding treaties to the launch of the Single Market, and later the creation of the single currency. The social dimension of the EU is illustrated and linked to questions of European identity, citizenship and democracy. The EU’s international identity and its growth from a six member state Union to one with 28 (and soon to be 27) members is traced and documented. The final component of the exhibition reflects on the challenges facing Europe, including the migration crisis, internal cohesion and the future of the EU.


The exhibition runs in the Glucksman Gallery from 13-18 June 2017. Entry is free and all are welcome.


Further information

Dr Mary C. Murphy

Department of Government

University College Cork

Tel:      021 490 2009


Department of Government and Politics

2nd Floor, Block B, O'Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Republic of Ireland