Burren Law School - Welcome
Ireland's place among the nations- Irish identity in the 21st century.
The theme of the School for 2013 echoes Robert Emmet's famous speech from the dock in which he declared "When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written." My intention is not, however, to revisit the often asked question whether Emmet's epitaph should now be written. I take it as a given that Ireland has long since taken her place among the nations. My question is what is that place? What does it mean to be Irish in this still young century, coming up towards the centenary of Irish independence, and how do we see ourselves as a people? How do we express our identity in our laws and in our dealings with the outside world?
There are a number of different aspects to these questions. In the Belfast Agreement both the British and Irish Governments "recognise the birth right of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments…" The implications of this novel and far-reaching approach to nationality are still in the process of being worked out despite the wishes of some to return us to the crude atavistic struggle over flags and emblems which many of us hoped had been confined to the past.
Our relations with the European Union stand at a crossroads. There is a widespread popular belief that the EU has done less than it might to help us weather the current economic and financial crises. Others maintain that however bad our current woes they could have been much worse outside the EU. The crisis has led to calls in Europe for greater political integration but at the same time the UK seeks a weaker and looser Union and promises a referendum on membership in five year’s time. English disenchantment with Europe is so great that even if there are concessions, which few believe will be forthcoming in any event; securing a vote in favour of membership is likely to be at least an uphill struggle. Scotland and perhaps Wales, however, appear to continue to support EU membership. If so, a vote to leave may put the United Kingdom under severe strain. How will we react to the events which may unfold in the next few years?
Twenty years ago Ireland was an ethnically and linguistically homogenous place. Now in the space of only a few short years we have one of the most diverse populations in Europe. Are we prepared to cope with the challenges this will bring? How does our legal system treat migrants and asylum-seekers? How will the Irish language fare in this new Ireland?
These are just some of the lively issues which any discussion of modern Irish identity throws up.
As usual we will try to relate these issues to the earlier Ireland of the Brehons, in keeping with our aim to illuminate the problems of the present by also learning from the past.
Join us in Ballyvaughan at the May bank holiday (Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th May 2013) for a lively, stimulating and enjoyable weekend.
- James Hamilton, Guest Director - Former DPP
Burren law school is run by a Trust dedicated inter alia to the natural and cultural heritage of the Burren.