From Peace talks to Brexit

At last week’s public talk on ‘Northern Ireland – from Peace talks to Brexit’ which was  hosted by Trinity Research in Social Sciences  a panel of speakers spoke about different aspects of the North in the context of Brexit.

Professor Paul Arthur discussed the civil rights movement and its underlying principles of inclusion and reflection within the wider context of Brexit and the EU. Professor Paul Arthur is an International Conflict Research Institute honorary professor at the University of Ulster and chair of Northern Ireland’s 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Commemoration Committee.

In his discussion he said: “We were the first generation of Catholics that were able to take advantage of a third level education ? the classic example of that is John Hume. That first generation of graduates were beginning to realise there was another way to rule. We moved away from the notion that you let sleeping dogs lie.”

Trinity’s Associate Professor in International Peace Studies, Etain Tannam went on to explore the legacy of John Hume and lessons learnt from Brexit:”John Hume introduced innovation in an insightful way, he argued that you could be both a nationalist but accept the then ruling institutions and see reunification as a process. He saw conflict as a failure of democracy and a clash of identities. The Good Friday agreement represents a culmination of his vision of a solution to reassure insecure identities.”

Former Ambassador to the UK and former Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Daithi O’Ceallaigh focused on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland. He emphasised the critical juncture of the issue: “From 1928-61 neither the UK nor Irish government interfered in Northern Ireland. Irish governments did practically nothing to help minority communities in Northern Ireland and it was this which primarily led to the civil rights movement. We are in dangerous times and Brexit has made it worse. It polarises the political community more than before. It shifted the power in the unionist community from Westminster to Stormont. It will happen. Our common interests will disappear. It is incumbent on politicians to manage how this relationship will continue.”

The event was chaired by Dearbhail McDonald, Group Business Editor of Independent News and Media Dearbhail McDonald: “The situation in Northern Ireland shaped our collective history and led me to study law at Trinity. I grew up with an innate sense of injustice, and the importance of the role of law and our democratic institutions.”

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