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14 April 2024  

Press Release - Garret FitzGerald Memorial Lecture 2018


Brexit and the Belfast Agreement –
mitigating the return to disturbance in our historic relationships

by Lord John Alderdice
6.30pm, 31 October 2018,
College Hall, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland,
St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2


Event Video


The 6th Dr Garret FitzGerald Memorial Lecture, entitled “Brexit and the Belfast Agreement – mitigating the return to disturbance in our historic relationships” was given this evening by Lord John Alderdice at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Considering the current state of European Affairs, Lord Alderdice posed the question ‘What went wrong in Europe?’ and in response asserted, “I believe that the answer is that the European Union was not developed on liberal principles of freedom, flexibility, organic growth and development, with appropriate and meaningful sensitivity to differences of identity and culture right across Europe, not only between northern and southern Europe, but between East and West too. Instead, it was centralising and focused on itself and on the interests, concerns, preoccupations and beliefs of the elite, with the result that many ordinary people found themselves becoming disenchanted…We know what happens when Europe becomes divided, but divided it has become, and our job now is to try to find a way of bringing it together”.

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Lord Alderdice then looked back to the Irish Peace Process examining how the key advance achieved was not only the Good Friday Agreement itself, but the recognition that issues arose from our historic relationships, between Protestant Unionist Loyalists and Catholic Nationalist Republicans in the North; between the people, North and South on the island; and between Britain and Ireland. He noted how the three strands of the Peace Process, with those directly involved in the three sets of relationships were represented. He spoke of the relationships with EU and the USA which, he said “contained and supported us”.

Lord Alderdice went on to discuss how, with all five sets of relationships now falling, as he says, “into a state of disrepair”, we should focus on them again. “The UK Government”, he said, “needs to pay more attention to Ireland and Ireland needs to beware of lining up with the rest of the 27 (member states) against the UK.”  He commented that it was unfortunate that the EU has gradually become increasingly focused on “regulations rather than relationships between the large communities, and this is not just a Brexit and Ireland problem, but a threat to the European Project itself.”

Lord Alderdice concluded his lecture by looking to the future, saying that the “North/South relationship will only work when unionists feel that the Dublin Government is not going to use Brexit to press towards unity…We are of course part of a wider world where relationships are uncertain, and anxiety is high as a consequence of globalization, new disruptive technologies, the financial crisis, the dizzying pace of societal change and the collapse of the old post-war structures and alliances.”

We have a chance,” he said, “given our experience of the Irish Peace Process to contribute something really important to wider political understandings, but only if we are able to return to implementing what we said we had agreed in the Good Friday Agreement twenty years ago. I believe that we can do that and..that we must

NUI Senator Michael McDowell gave a response to Lord Alderdice’s lecture.

As a memorial to its former Chancellor, NUI established the Dr Garret FitzGerald Lectures, an annual lecture series by distinguished speakers on topics of national or international importance. Dr Garret FitzGerald PhD, MRIA was Chancellor of NUI from 1997 – 2009. This is the sixth lecture in the series run by NUI.

Brexit and the Belfast Agreement
Text of lecture (131KB)


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Further information from:

The Registrar
National University of Ireland
49 Merrion Square
Dublin 2, D02 V583
Ph: 01 4392424
Twitter: @NUIMerrionSq
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