Patten talks up British-Irish relationship

Former Hong Kong governor’s forebears left Ireland for Lancashire in mid-19th century

Domnick Chilcott, the British ambassador, Lord Patten and Ronan Murphy, senior partner at PwC at the business leaders’ dinner last night. Photograph: Maxwells

Domnick Chilcott, the British ambassador, Lord Patten and Ronan Murphy, senior partner at PwC at the business leaders’ dinner last night. Photograph: Maxwells

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 01:00

It was a full house, so to speak, last night at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ offices in Dublin for a business leaders’ dinner, where along with such local dignitaries as Laurence Crowley, Mary Robinson, Martin McAleese and Danuta Grey, guests included the British ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, and Lord Patten of Barnes (formerly known as Chris Patten).

Marking the forthcoming State visit to Britain by President Michael D Higgins, the event was designed to highlight the close business links between the two countries.

In his address to the gathering, prior to the dinner, Lord Patten, former European commissioner, last governor of Hong Kong and a minister in the government of John Major, gave a warm address in which he spoke of his own family’s Irish roots and suggested that quis separabit? – “who shall separate us?” – should be the motto used “by all of us who have shared this archipelago off the European mainland over the centuries”.

On his father’s side Patten’s forebears left Ireland for Lancashire during the mid-19th century. And on his own father’s death, his mother married the family GP, a McCarthy from Mayo.

In reviewing the strong relationship between the two countries, Patten spoke of the improved situation in Northern Ireland – where he headed the commission that was part of the process that saw the replacement of the RUC with the PSNI – and the success the Irish economy has had within the EU, “excepting one thunderous crash”.

However, he did not elaborate on his views on the European Union.

“Because of my responsibilities as chairman of the impartial BBC, I am bound to observe a vow of omerta for fear of being taken out and shot at dawn by Rupert Murdoch and the editor of the Daily Mail .”

Murdoch, he noted, pursued nationalistic policies on everything apart from ownership of the press.

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