Those of ye who for the first time are ticking the “50-60 years of age” box on application forms, were born in a year of notable developments. Sometimes it can take decades for something truly notable to happen, other times a number of truly notable events can happen within a single year. The 12 months that formed the year of ‘73, was one of those years.
  • On the sporting front there was much excitement as Limerick’s Captain Éamonn Grimes lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup, his county’s first championship title win in 33 years.
  • On the Gaelic football front, Billy Morgan captained Cork as they brought the Sam Maguire Cup back Leeside, for only the second time in the competition’s history.
  • A closely fought League of Ireland First Division campaign saw Waterford FC come out tops by just a single point ahead of Finn Harps, to claim the league title, with a final tally of 42 points.
  • On the rugby front, we had the unprecedented situation of all 5 teams in the 5 Nations Championship finishing on four points each at the end of the campaign; with Ireland beaten into second place by Wales, who had the superior points difference. Oh how they would have wished the bonus point system to have been in place!
On the musical front, Horselips and Thin Lizzy excited us with dazzling guitar riffs, as the classic songs “Dearg Doom” and Lizzy’s rock take on the folk classic “Whiskey in the Jar”, were released, for all the world to kitchen dance to. It was also the year when Gilbert o’ Sullivan urged us to “Get Down”.

Irish Women
This (Get Down) is one thing the Women of Ireland were no longer willing to do, as they successfully brought about an end on the ban on married women working in the Civil Service.
  • On April 11th we saw an ending of a defining era of our history, as the formidable and much feared John Charles McQuaid, the formidable Archbishop of Dublin – whom some regarded as having more power than the Taoiseach - passed away.
  • It was also the year the references to the “special position of the Catholic Church” were removed from the Irish constitution.
1973 saw the end of an era in the political sphere, as voters voted for change at the ballot box.
  • Fianna Fail’s 16-year unbroken hold on the levers of power was relinquished, as a new Government was voted in.
  • The Fine Gael and Labour coalition, sworn in on March 4th, promised bright new things for the country and little did we know just how bright things would get thanks to a momentous event that happened on January 1st 1973. For it was on this day that the result of the Referendum, held on May 10th 1972, when 83% of voters voted “Yes” to the proposal that Ireland would join the EEC, came into effect.
Economic Impact
Just to give a simple stark synopsis as to how this has extraordinarily changed our economic fortunes:
  • Stats for the year 1972 show that Per Capita GDP stood at €2,080, and the available online C.S.O. figure for total exports in 1973 showed that we exported, (what would in today’s money be) €1.1Bn of goods.
  • Contrast this figure with the year 2018, where the Per Capita figure had risen astronomically to $79,250 and the total value of our exports now stood at €140Bn.
  • Back in 1973, food and drink exports accounted for 41% of the overall total.
    In 2018, while the percentage of overall exports that were from the food and drink sector fell to 8%, it had risen to a value of €11Bn.
  • In 1930, the percentage of the workforce who worked in the agricultural sector stood at 34%, so one can imagine the devastating impact unusually bad weather over the course of a year, would have had to the country’s economic fortunes.
  • Contrast this with 2016, where out of a total workforce of just over 2 million, over 265,000 were employed in an agriculture related industry or around 13% of the workforce.
  • The vast increases in employment in other areas, such as pharmaceuticals, the tech industry etc, has ensured a far more robust state for the Irish economy, compared to the position it was in, in the past.
As well as massive changes in the economic landscape, our entry to the European Economic Community (EEC), later renamed to European Community (EC) and then the name we use now of European Union (EU), has brought about seismic change in the social landscape too.
Our membership of the European Community brought about enforced changes in our legal system, with many outdated and archaic laws at long last being reformed.
  • It is thanks to EU Law that a person can no longer be sacked from a job due to the sexual orientation or religious identity.
  • It has also led to a massive shortening in the gap in the rates of pay paid to men and women, with many firms thankfully now paying both equally.
Infrastructure and Transport
  • We can in part thank the E.U. for no longer having to spend an hour or more, over the August Bank Holiday weekend, snarling our way through the villages of Ashford in Wicklow or Moate in Co. Westmeath; new motorways heavily funded by the EU, have dramatically improved road transport in this country.
  • Also our cars are now more environmentally friendly, benefitting those with respiratory illnesses in particular.
  • Many cyclists will be tipping their helmets to this organisation headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, for providing the financial incentives that kick-started the construction of cycle lanes in this state.
  • E.U. funding has also helped to speed up the train journey from the capital to Galway, Cork and other cities.
  • In 1972 a new terminal opened in Dublin Airport and the authorities were confident that it’s capacity would cater for 6 million passengers per annum and meet demand. Last year 28.1 million passengers passed through its doors, an almost five-fold increase since that terminal was opened 51 years ago.
  • We can now fly direct to many more destinations than we could in 1973 and deregulation by the EU has opened up air travel to many more of us. What was once a very expensive mode of transport, that was essentially the sole preserve of the wealthy, is now an affordable travel option for all. Take one look at Flight Radar on any given evening and you will see a myriad of cargo planes flying from Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports, a visible marker as to our noticeably improved economic circumstances since 1973.
  • Foreign travel also opened our minds and has made us more worldly as people from Malin to Mizen have had their perceptions changed on many things, from how to do business, to the different types of cuisine one can enjoy.
While everything that has happened since 1973 has not always had us smelling of roses. For example, the major housing crisis we are sadly experiencing in this country right now due to stringently enforced EU Regulations, Today’s houses are now of a much better standard and more environmentally sound, than they would have been in the past.
Thanks to an E.U. funded scheme, we now have the ability to go abroad and receive medical treatment, if Irish waiting lists are too long.
While many regard our attitude towards the television comedy “Father Ted” as being a pivotal signposting of our changing attitudes as a country, it is without doubt that our membership of the E.U. played a part in the seismic changes that have taken place in this country in the recent past.
Little did we know how much things would change when 83% of the population said “Oui”, in that Referendum held on May 10th 1972.

Posted: 03/03/2023 14:36:54