Chairman of the US House of Representatives Ways and Means committee, Richard Neal, addressed the inaugural Henry Grattan lecture in Washington on US-Irish relations. The event was hosted by the Irish Embassy in association with Trinity College on October 15th last.
The Henry Grattan lecture is a flagship initiative of Trinity’s School of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Ireland’s Ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall said it was appropriate that a distinguished parliamentarian such as Congressman Neal was delivering the inaugural lecture. The Ambassador also indicated his hope that it would become an annual event in the Washington calendar.
In conversation with Ambassador Mulhall, Congressman Neal reflected on his long standing interest in Northern Ireland and his commitment to Ireland more generally through his involvement in the Friends of Ireland caucus.
Referring to the ongoing Brexit discussions, Congressman Neal declared that the US would not pass a trade deal with the UK if the Belfast Agreement were undermined:
“America is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. We are all in. We were honest brokers in that agreement. We feel a certain pride in ending the longest standing political dispute in the history of the western world. We are going to push hard against anything that might compromise our success”.
Addressing the Brexit discussions, Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development Aid, Ciaran Cannon acknowledged that bipartisan Irish American support helped lay the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement.
He further stated:“What’s certain is that the Irish Government is determined to stay true to the compromises enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement”.
On the issue of Ireland achieving access to E3 visas which are currently only available to Australian citizens, Congressman Neal said this was something that could be revisited. He stated that there was now bipartisan support for the bill and believed that if put to a vote in the US senate it would pass.
The event was chaired by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Gail McElroy. Speaking at the conclusion of the event she highlighted the importance of the social sciences in informing public policy development, at both a national and international level, stating:
Trinity’s School of Social Sciences and Philosophy is committed to understanding and improving society through initiatives such as this evening’s Henry Grattan lecture. These lectures connect leading policy makers and academics, from around the world, with a wider audience to provide a forum to examine the most urgent global challenges. The topics considered by Congressman Neal, which spanned conflict, international relations and trade through to migration and immigration, demonstrate the social sciences are more important today than ever. Without them we cannot understand human behaviour and without such an understand we cannot resolve the most pressing issues of our times.