‘Powerful and historic’ links between Ireland and Belgium explored in new book

Belgium is now Ireland’s third largest export market

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at yesterday’s book launch

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at yesterday’s book launch


Suzanne Lynch

Ireland and Belgium have a “powerful and historic relationship” stretching back centuries, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said yesterday as he launched a new book on Irish-Belgian relations in Brussels yesterday. “Ireland and Belgium: Past Connections and Continuing Ties” is a collection of 24 essays exploring the cultural and economic ties between the two countries.

Noting that Padraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, had spent a six-week period studying in Belgium in 1905, he said the ties between Ireland and Belgium ran deep.

“Those who left Rathmullen, the Flight of the Earls made their way here to Brussels where they established the Irish college in Leuven in the early 1600s’s. They were obliged then to be outward-looking, and Ireland is still outward-looking,” the Taoiseach said.

Describing the “quality and depth of the relationships” between Ireland and Belgium, Ireland’s Ambassador to Belgium Eamonm Mac Aodha, the co-editor of the book, said that the “extensive linkages between the two countries” had provided the impetus for the book. “These links are not as widely known or appreciated as they might be,” he said.

Belgium is a major trading partner for Ireland. In 2013 Ireland’s goods exports to Belgium were €11.2 billion making it Ireland’s third-largest export market, although a proportion of this is shipped on from Belgian ports to other markets.

Contributors to the book include Barbara Dawson, Director of the Hugh Lane Gallery, KBC economist Austin Hughes, and Willem van der Voorde, a Belgian diplomat and Ambassador to Austria.