Development & Alumni Relations Office 


10 January 2019

Queen’s has welcomed Tánaiste Simon Coveney T.D. for a discussion on ‘Maintaining the habit of Co-operation’ as part of the University Policy Engagement Lecture Series (09 January 2019).

The Tánaiste, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (pictured left above), joined a packed room of more than 300 people at the University for ‘meaningful discussion, engaged debate and open dialogue’ on the second anniversary of the collapse of Stormont power-sharing.

During his address he touched on a variety of matters ranging from Brexit to the current stalemate in Stormont and the likely future relations between the EU and the UK.

Addressing the lack of a fully functioning Assembly, the Tánaiste said: “The ongoing failure, not just to restore the Assembly and Executive to full operation, but even to come together again and re-start negotiations, is unacceptable. To everyone.

“I have regular conversations with the parties. I talk to the Secretary of State, to Karen, all the time. This sense that the situation we find ourselves in is unsustainable is an absolutely shared one.

“It should be by far the dominant political issue of the day.”

Speaking specifically about Brexit the Tánaiste said: “We want to make sure that UK withdrawal from the European Union doesn’t jeopardise the foundation of the shared, peaceful future for everyone on this island provided by the Good Friday Agreement. That is our agenda.”

Addressing the ‘backstop’ he said: I hear and respect the deep concern expressed by some in the Unionist community, that the union may somehow be threatened by the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop, and that your sense of connectedness with Britain may be undermined.”

Mr Coveney added: “We don’t want the backstop for it to be some kind of trap in which to ensnare and hold the UK or Northern Ireland. Nor do we want the backstop as some kind of stepping stone to changing the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

“In fact, we don’t want the backstop to be invoked at all. We want a future EU-UK relationship so close it is never needed.”

He also called for more public discussion on pressing political issues. He said: “Indeed, we need to find more ways and provide more spaces for such public conversations, where passionate beliefs and imaginative ideas can be aired in an environment that is as calm and considered as possible.

“Universities like Queen’s are the perfect places to do that, as they engage our young people while stressing the values of objectivity and high-quality research, as well as inclusivity and mutual respect.”

Vice-Chancellor and President of Queen’s, Professor Ian Greer (above right) said: “I was delighted to welcome Tánaiste Simon Coveney to participate in the Queen’s University Policy Engagement Lecture Series.

“It was an engaging speech and debate.”

The event, part of the ongoing Policy Engagement Lecture Series, was organised by the University’s Public Engagement team which promotes the message, teaching, research and values of Queen’s across the political and civic sphere.

The Tánaiste’s full speech is available to view here.

Enquiries to Communications Office, Queen’s University Belfast, telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 3091.

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