On behalf of everyone assembled – thank you for your words. An address to both Houses in the Royal Gallery is an honour we reserve for only our closest friends. I hope you will take it as a mark of the esteem in which you are held by members of this parliament.
When former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern addressed us in 2007, he spoke of laying foundations for a new level of cooperation between the UK and Ireland.
Together, we have spent the intervening years building upon those foundations – shaping an unprecedented period of friendship, mutual respect and political and economic collaboration. Your presence here is a testament to that success.
Our joint efforts have led to a long overdue equilibrium in our bilateral relationship. Long overdue because of our geographic proximity, our shared culture, values and family ties – we are natural partners. It is only right, given all that we have in common, that we can finally have the fruitful relations that have so often in the past eluded us.
And now we can begin to reap the benefits of this newfound stability. With the foundations established – we can pay greater attention to the wider partnership of common interests between our two countries. We are already working together on matters as diverse as renewable energy, free trade, and science and technology.
And, through the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, our parliaments also work directly in concert. Only last week the Assembly met in Dublin, and I know many of its members are here today. The UK Parliament’s only other bilateral parliamentary association is with the United States, another country with whom we have an intrinsic bond that extends beyond simple political accommodation.
President Higgins, you are a politician, a passionate human rights advocate and a poet. In this latter capacity, you represent a people who have given us some of the world’s greatest literature. Last century alone, Ireland boasted such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and many others. Through their work, they heralded a new and different literature. With their words, they fought censorship, inequality and resistance to political and social change. This is a treasured tradition from a remarkable country that the UK is proud to call a friend.
President Higgins, you are a renaissance man for a renaissance era in UK-Irish politics. It has been a great pleasure to welcome you here today.
Image: House of Lords 2014 / Photography by Roger Harris