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Former Irish Prime Minister lectures on Anglo-Irish bond

Sheila Flynn | Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Former Irish Prime Minister Garrett FitzGerald spoke Tuesday afternoon at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies, addressing the normalization of Anglo-Irish relations and the integral role of economics in the process.

FitzGerald, who served two terms as prime minister, or Taosieach, during the 1980s, said many people do not realize that the troubled relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom are not solely rooted in political, religious or cultural differences.

Instead, he said a “fundamental economic imbalance” always hindered the development of a normal relationship. Until Ireland became self-sufficient economically, he said, the United Kingdom could not establish an equal relationship with its neighbor.

He outlined the history of economic connections between the two islands- which were historically skewed in the United Kingdom’s favor – and followed the economic developments after the formation of the European Union and other European economic ties.

“[Ireland was] better equipped to play a positive and successful role [in the modern European economic alliances],” FitzGerald said, further changing its relationship with the United Kingdom.

Ireland’s elevated economic status, he said, enabled a mutual understanding, respect and trust. He said the improved relations currently in place would never have appeared if Ireland had remained a poor country.

During his time in office, FitzGerald played an active role in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which gave the Irish government more power regarding the nationalist community in Northern Ireland. He is chancellor of the National University of Ireland, writes a column in the Irish Times and has written several books.

FitzGerald’s father, Desmond FitzGerald, a highly-involved activist during Ireland’s fight for independence and the country’s first foreign minister, spent time as a lecturer at Notre Dame during the presidency of Father John F. Cardinal O’Hara in the 1930s.