Kenny: urges Britain to stay in
European Union in key
London address

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny used a highly anticipated speech at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE) yesterday afternoon to urge Britain to stay in the European Union (EU) and to set out Ireland's vision for the remainder of its presidency of the organization.

"We regard Britain's contribution to the EU as being of exceptional importance," the Prime Minister told the packed crowd.

"And I share Prime Minister Cameron's view that Britain should remain a part of the Union."

Kenny - who like most Irish political leaders wants Britain to remain in the European Union despite a promised referendum on the matter - said that the countries' shared history meant that membership of the Union was a matter of common interest for the two neighbours.

"We have traveled a great distance together with Britain, and are of like mind on so many issues that the Union faces."

The speech was delivered before a capacity audience at the school's central London venue and preceded the Taoiseach's visit to Downing Street as part of his one day State visit.

Kenny met Prime Minister David Cameron after the series of meetings, held to mark the beginning of St Patrick's week.

The Taoiseach had earlier spoken to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

He also used the address to reminisce fondly about Queen Elizabeth II's historical visit to Ireland in 2011, and reciprocated the Queen's famous use of the Irish language during the State banquet held in Dublin Castle.

"The start of St Patrick’s Week is a fitting time to reflect on those remarkable days, two years ago, when her Majesty Queen Elizabeth - to us  Banrian Eilis a Do - came to visit Ireland."

"With two words she brought healing across our too-divided history:  she addressed us as 'a chairde', friends. These are words that no English monarch had used before."

Kenny divulged for the first time that after the historical 2011 visit, the Queen had told him that of all her State visits, the Ireland trip was the one she had most wished to do.

Painting the historical context behind that momentous moment of reconciliation between the two peoples, Kenny described the Good Friday agreement - which largely brought about an end to the wrangling between the British and Irish governments over Northern Ireland - as "the bedrock upon which much progress has been made", adding that the two countries should "build further" to continue to strengthen their relationship.

However, despite offering a hopefully optimistic portrayal of Ireland's emergence from its economic slump, the PM admitted that unemployment remained a key problem, saying that Ireland's protracted levels of joblessness, alongside continuing high levels of youth emigration, risked causing mass hopelessness among its young generation.

Many of that young generation already find themselves overseas, and some of those had taken time off work, in central London, to be among the audience hearing the speech.

For them, Kenny's words on an Ireland emerging from an unemployment crisis must have rung somewhat hollow, but they were undoubtedly intended as an encouraging glimpse at a future not marred by a straining social support system and legions of young people reckoning among the long term out-of-work.

"Recently we have started to see improvements in the unemployment situation in Ireland," Kenny said.

"We have recorded a modest increase in private sector jobs."

The Prime Minister also re-iterated the government's plan to emerge from the bailout programme during 2013 and resume normalized bond issuance next year.

Concluding his remarks at the end of the twenty minute address, Kenny ended on what may prove to be a prescient prediction when results from the next General Election come in: "the people are always right".