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Speaking for Ireland

John Bradley
A Time to Speak: A selection of speeches made during the period 1989 to 2013 reflecting on economic, social and other issues, by Sir George Quigley, Ulster Bank and Appletree Press, 2015 On November 10th, 2015, a collection of some of Sir George Quigley’s most important speeches on issues related to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland was celebrated in a book launched in Dublin, and in Belfast at a later date. At the launch, at which I was asked to reflect on the vital role that Sir George played in promoting research into economic and business issues of island-wide interest, Lady Moyra Quigley spoke movingly of her late husband and of the role that he had played for more than two decades in promoting inter-community harmony within Northern Ireland and better North-South understanding and cooperation on the whole island. She remarked on a Chinese saying that “the philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next”. Sadly, Ireland may be a special case and may require more than one century. But there can be no doubt but that Sir George’s vision and calm, reasoned discourse points to the only way out of the strife and misunderstanding that still bedevils our island and its wary and distrustful communities. I can date very precisely when the North-South border entered into my own professional life and became an integral part of my work as an economist. In late 1989 I was asked by the then chairman of AIB – Peter Sutherland – to address the members of his board during a week-end retreat held at Dromoland Castle. My topic, the medium-term prospects of the Irish economy, was based on the pioneering research that the Economic and Social Research Institute had been carrying out during the 1980s, in the era of recession prior to the arrival of the Celtic Tiger. Just before my address, I noticed – to my surprise ‑ that many members of the AIB board were from Northern Ireland. So, I started my presentation by apologising to these people for not being able to say anything about the economy of Northern Ireland. I added that there was nobody in the ESRI (at that time) working on Northern Ireland, on cross-border questions, or collaborating with Northern researchers. Immediately after my presentation I was approached by John McGuckian, who was also chairman of the International Fund for Ireland. He…

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