Irish Times Photography
Councillor John Finucane, Lord Mayor of Belfast, gave a public lecture— Belfast: A Brexit Perspective— as part of the Jean Monnet Lecture series, in UCC’s Centre for Executive Education on October 24th.
“All parties on [Belfast City Council], irrespective of their view of a reunified Ireland, are of one mind in their wish to invest in our collective community, investing in improving peoples’ lives. This must include building strong, practical, and lasting links with the rest of Ireland… That’s why I’m here today,” said Cllr Finucane, addressing a crowd of UCC students, faculty and members of the public alike. “This is the type of political cooperation that makes a difference and gets things done.”
Sinn Féin Councillor John Finucane grew up in Belfast, qualifying as a solicitor and running a legal practice. He was elected Lord Mayor in 2019, and is to serve until 2022. Cllr Finucane, while expressing his disapproval of the Leave vote, focused on making the Brexit process peaceful and beneficial. “Leaving the EU presents unprecedented political, social and economic challenges for Belfast.” While sharply critical of the English response to the Northern Irish problem, he praised all parties on both sides of the border for their work in easing the transition for Northern Ireland.
“The European Union and the Republic of Ireland have committed fully to upholding the terms of the Good Friday agreement, and for this, I commend them,” he said.
In addition to analysing Brexit, though, Cllr Finucane highlighted the importance of Belfast strengthening its relationship with Cork, and with other cities in the Republic. “It’s a very different Cork, coming from a very different Belfast…Sometimes Cork and Belfast sometimes feel worlds apart. In my view, there is an explanation for this; it comes from history, one hundred years ago, when our country was partitioned. But that’s not the only explanation. Because within those respective states, North and South, there are other separations that straddle the issues of geography, class, and social status. These have grown up over the last century. But this does not have to be the case.”
“Brexit will redefine the relationships between Ireland, North and South, and East and West, between our two countries…This change will be felt most acutely on the island of Ireland. It challenges the underpinnings of the economic, social and cultural development this island has enjoyed in recent decades, particularly in the north of Ireland. But this has forced a conversation about our future together, and how we might best progress together, politically and in economic terms.”