Ahead of the referendum on Ireland's membership of the EEC, campaigners for and against joining were out in force. 'Seven Days' travelled the country to get a flavour of the sentiment on both sides.

On 10 May 1972, a referendum took place where the people of Ireland were asked to vote for or against Ireland's membership to the European Economic Community (EEC). This was the Third Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland. The referendum was approved by the electorate and was signed into law on 8 June 1972.

Ahead of the referendum 'Seven Days' followed political parties, independents and pressure groups on the campaign trail as they put their messages across to the electorate. Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were in agreement on membership and much of their campaigning involved highlighting the financial gains that joining Europe would bring.

Jack Lynch outlined the Fianna Fáil stance in support of joining the common market. He provided a background to the history of Ireland's application to join the EEC. In 1961 the then Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil Sean Lemass personally presented Ireland's application. Preparations began for membership with the investment of millions of pounds in the adaptation of industry and agriculture. 

Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald also campaigned for a yes vote. Standing on a float at the side of a street, Garret told onlookers

There will be the increase in the labour, in the social benefits next year as an immediate consequence of membership.


Bernadette Devlin, on the other hand, campaigned for a no vote on the grounds that by joining the Common Market Ireland would be tied to Britain forever. For Devlin, Ireland needed to be the master of its own destiny.

It doesn't worry me whether my master is British or whether my master is French or German. I just don't like masters.

At a meeting of the Irish Farmers Association, views were split on membership. Irish farming leader and independent politician Thomas Joseph (TJ) Maher spoke in favour of common market membership on the grounds of the benefits it would bring for small farmers. Non-membership would entail the imposition of tariffs on Irish exports. 

John Carroll of the Irish Trade Union Movement also spoke out against membership and was sceptical about the employment opportunities that joining the EEC would bring for Ireland. 

Jack Lynch also outlined his views on how membership would impact on the issue of the border between Ireland north and south.  

To join means that we can begin the process which will gradually make the border less and less significant. But to stay out means not only that we recognise and accept the border but that we would build it higher and higher with our own hands.

This episode of 'Seven Days' was broadcast on 5 May 1972.