State Dinner in honour of H.E. Mr. Nicos Anastasiades, President of the Republic of Cyprus

Tue 18th Oct, 2016 | 19:00
location: Áras an Uachtaráin

Speech at a State Dinner in honour of President Nicos Anastasiades

Áras an Uachtaráin, Tuesday 18 October 2016

Ireland and Cyprus are two nations who know how important the wider European framework is to the resolution of their respective internal divisions. However different our histories may be, we are two islands with a common experience of painful division between our Northern and Southern parts.

Your Excellency President Anastasiades,
Mrs Anastasiades,
Distinguished Guests,


Is mór an pléisiúir dom é fáilte a fhearradh róimh go hÉireann, a Uachtaráin agus a Bhean uasal Anastasiades.

It is my great pleasure to welcome you, President and Mrs Anastasiades, to Ireland. May I offer you our traditional Céad Míle Fáilte or Kalosórisma (καλωσόρισμα).

Ireland and Cyprus are two island nations located on opposite peripheries of the land mass of Europe, and yet ones that have been brought close together by ancient scholarship, a shared experience of a hegemon, and above all by friendship and, in recent times, by our shared membership of the European Union.

As the then President of the Council of the EU, Ireland was delighted, in 2004, to have the honour of welcoming Cyprus into the European Union family. Since then we have been working as friends and equal partners within the EU, and indeed one of the closest collaborations we enjoyed of recent times was that period, four years ago, when Cyprus ran its highly successful first Presidency of the Council of the EU, which was followed immediately afterwards by Ireland’s. Those Presidencies were a very positive experience for us both and for our European partners.

No one should of course be surprised at the deep identification and contribution to European thought and society manifested by the people of Cyprus – an island which gave us Zeno of Citium and the stoic school of philosophy, with its emphasis on the virtues derived from a life lived in accordance with Nature.

I very much welcome your visit, President Anastasiades, as an opportunity to celebrate these bonds that unite our two countries, the new bonds we will forge, and also, as we look to our common future in Europe, as an opportunity to draw from that great contribution to philosophy, ethics, logic and the demands of reason which has been given to the world by that region of ancient civilisation from which you come.

There is no doubt that we have arrived at a critical juncture in the history of the European project. Our countries, and the European system of cooperation as a whole, have been deeply shaken by the global financial crisis of 2008. In Ireland as in Cyprus, our citizens have had to pay a very high price for the systemic failure of banks. They have been called upon to pay for unaccountable private speculation of which they were neither the authors, nor ever the possible beneficiaries, and they have done so, not just in “money value”, but, as Jürgen Habermas has said, “in the hard currency of their daily existences”(1).

Next year we will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. We will do so knowing that fissures have widened between the peoples of Europe, their institutions and their states, and that we are now faced with the historic challenge of having to craft an adequate response to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. That decision has consequences for the Union as a whole, and for Ireland and Cyprus in very particular ways.

These challenges are arising in an atmosphere of rising populist and xenophobic movements across Europe – an atmosphere corroded by enduring unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and a failure to distribute more fairly economic capacity across the EU, or to balance competitiveness with cohesion, as the Treaties require.

All of this is only exacerbated, with the gravest of human, moral and political consequences, by the inability of our member states to offer a decent and coordinated response to the plight of so many vulnerable men, women and children who are fleeing a horrendous war in Syria, or seeking shelter from other conflicts, natural disasters or extreme poverty in different parts of the world.

May I suggest, President, that we Europeans must approach these multiple “crises”, not with fear and fatalism, but with courage, and in a spirit of solidarity. Indeed I strongly believe that to provide hope, to recover a positive vision at this crucial moment, there is no other path than solidarity: solidarity within the Union, and solidarity with the wider world. If we are to do so may I suggest that it is a time to draw on our rich philosophical heritage. It is a time to think long, and a time to balance our economics with strong ethics and a restored capacity for symmetry with the natural world.

After all, everything that challenges us – from finance to climate change and migration – points to the utter interdependence of all societies across the globe. There can be no invocation of extreme forms of cultural isolation, lest we agree to transform Europe into a gated continent. Placing faith in such an outlook would be a grave delusion. No Great Wall, no fences, have ever stopped migration movements, or human responses to great natural upheavals, and humanity has been the beneficiary. Were the political drive in Europe ever to lead the continent, once again, down the road of cultural purity, that would be a disaster for present and future generations – purchased at the cost of democracy itself.

While all member-states may not share the same history, or the same approach to cultural and religious diversity, a dialogue is possible – is necessary – between us.

We also have good reason to know that progress is not only possible – but achievable – at European and global level in tackling the root causes of extreme poverty and mass migration. The two international agreements concluded last year on climate change and on global sustainable development are important milestones in that regard.

Both agendas invite us to complete a shift in mindset, discourse, as well as policy, and Europeans can play a leading role in bringing forth the necessary transformation at local, regional and global level. We, Europeans, have learned so much from peaceful cooperation. We can, together, play such an important part in advancing, not just the recovery of the previous North-South conversation, but a new conversation about our shared humanity and its future on this fragile planet. We can, if united, breathe new life in the European vision, and in doing so we will also be saving a model of peace and cooperation on which so many people from other continents have placed their gaze.


President Anastasiades,

Ireland and Cyprus are two nations who know how important the wider European framework is to the resolution of their respective internal divisions. However different our histories may be, we are two islands with a common experience of painful division between our Northern and Southern parts.

May I say how I admire your sustained efforts, President Anastasiades, with regard to the ongoing negotiations to reach a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. I admire your commitment to work with all parties, including the leader of the Turkish community, Mr Mustafa Akinci, to achieve a peaceful and durable resolution to this longstanding issue. A lasting peace in Cyprus will be a beacon of hope in the region and around the world, and I so wish you well in your endeavours; I hope you come to enjoy the fruits of your patience as well as the skill of your statesmanship.

These are important days in your discussions, and we are particularly honoured that at this time of maximum engagement in the peace negotiations, you have taken the time to honour us with your presence. I hope that your visit to Ireland will give further energy to your efforts to complete this most important journey.

As a country which understands only too well the shattering impact that can flow from proximity to the power of a close neighbour, we in Ireland encourage all the people of Cyprus to continue their engagement with their Northern counterparts, in a spirit of respect, understanding and creativity. On this island, we are reaping the many benefits of a hospitality of narratives that acknowledges different perspectives on a shared history. This is something we have been reflecting upon during this period of Commemorations in Ireland, when we are recalling the succession of events which led to the creation of an independent Irish State and the partition of the island.

Whatever changes the recent UK referendum might bring, we are determined to continue to work together with our British neighbours and with all the communities on this island. We are determined to continue to draw on the firm foundation of the Good Friday Agreement, so that future generations can reap the bountiful rewards of what was sown during our slowly crafted, sometimes faltering, peace process.

We pray that the Cypriot people will soon share in the experience of reconciled and peaceful coexistence, and all the fruits that can flow from it.

We are pleased too that Ireland has been able to play its own part in giving practical expression to its good will towards Cyprus and its people through, for example, the long-established engagement of Irish personnel in UNFICYP, the peace-keeping mission in Cyprus. As early as 1964, our Parliament, Dáil Éireann, formally approved the despatch of a 600-strong contingent of the Irish Defence Forces, marking the beginning of a 21- year engagement with the people of Cyprus. In 1993, members of An Garda Síochána, our national police service, were first assigned to serve as peacekeepers with UNPOL in Cyprus, and today they form one of the larger elements of that UNPOL presence on your island.

We are proud of all our Irish peacekeepers, in Cyprus and around the world, and we are honoured, President, that you will mark Ireland’s contribution to peacekeeping in Cyprus during this State visit.

We understand that true reconciliation requires more than an agreement at a political level; it must account for the lived experience of all those affected by conflict. The work carried out by the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus is truly extraordinary in that regard, and I am pleased that we in Ireland have been able to make a financial contribution to the continuation of this most important endeavour.

Reconciliation is an integral element of any sustainable peace, a recognition that the hurts of the past cannot, and must not, be forgotten, but that the future remains alive with possibilities yet unborn, from which no version of past conflicts should preclude us.


Dear Friends, Guests,

May I now invite you all to stand and join with me in a toast:

to the health and prosperity of the President and the people of the Republic of Cyprus; and to the enduring friendship between our two nations!




Jürgen Habermas. 2009. Europe: The Faltering Project. Polity.