Two nations with a shared narrative

Spirit of friendship and partnership has continued to grow between Ireland and Britain, writes President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins visits the Haringey Irish Cultural and Community Centre in north London in July of last year.

President Michael D Higgins visits the Haringey Irish Cultural and Community Centre in north London in July of last year.

Fri, Apr 4, 2014, 01:00

As I prepare for the first state visit by a President of Ireland to the United Kingdom, I am encouraged and strengthened by the knowledge that I take with me the support, warmth and good wishes of the Irish people.

It is almost three years since the historic visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to Ireland. That visit was characterised by a warmth and good will that conveyed to the world the positive quality of our interdependence, as well as the depth and complexity of the relationship between our peoples. That spirit of friendship and partnership has continued to grow, and today we enjoy a relationship with Great Britain that is founded on mutual respect and is warmer than it has ever been in our long and shared story.

Our nations share a unique proximity. We also share a common narrative, woven through the manifold connections between our people and our heritage, as well as a language and a literature that have been enriched by a distinctive Irish sensibility. Today, it is as equal partners that we engage with the European Union and the world in political negotiations, do business and trade together, and cooperate in the fields of science and technologies.

Our proximity, both physical and cultural, lies at the heart of a strong economic relationship between our two countries; a relationship that is of mutual benefit and is critical to the economic recovery and growing prosperity of Ireland and Great Britain. The flow of goods, investment and capital between our shores demonstrates a level of interconnectedness that is rare between two nations, even by the standards of today’s global and increasingly interlinked world.

Even rarer, however, is the generous sharing of creativity, innovation and research between our two islands. This spirit of co-operation in intellectual and applied work not only enriches our social and cultural ties, but allows our two countries to make a significant contribution to a global economy emerging from crisis; towards the creation of a sustainable economy whose values are founded on full participation, the encouragement of original thinking and the fostering of creativity. Building on ancient scholarly connections, today our scientists and technologists work together at the frontiers of innovation in science and technology.

Positive future
Our young people, on both sides of the Irish Sea, have a key role to play in the achievement of our hopes for a positive future, and the continuation of our shared journey as friends and partners in each of our economies and societies. As President of Ireland, I established the “Being Young and Irish” initiative, aimed at forming a new discourse on citizenship that would listen to the voices of young Ireland. From that experience I know that it is important, as neighbours and close partners, that we also listen to the voices of young Britain and that we enable the young people of these islands to craft together a shared vision of the future. I will, during my visit, meet with some of those young people and hear their thoughts and insights as they envisage that shared future; a future which in recent times is being built on strong and enduring foundations.

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