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Senator Gary Hart, U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland

‌Senator Gary Hart, U.S Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, delivered an Iveagh House Lecture at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on December 15th 2016. Senator Hart spoke on the theme of “Reflections on Ireland and its Republic.” He discussed his role as United States Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, and also the origins and development of republican thought through the ages. Senator Hart posed questions on the relevance of Classical Republican philosophy to modern democracies, including Ireland and the United States.

Senator Gary Hart’s lecture focused on republics both ancient and modern, the guiding principles by which they were formed, and the integrity and relevance of those principles in the United States and Ireland today. He explained the strains that modernisation over the previous century had brought to the surface of American politics, how communities had been adversely affected by automation and globalisation, while he believed ‘a closed system of privilege, under siege from special interests’ had become the core challenge of American politics. Referencing the ideals of the US Founding Fathers, and contrasting it with the challenges faced by modern democracies, Senator Hart called for a renaissance of republican virtues. He asked the audience to consider how the philosophy of classical and 18th century republicanism had manifested itself in Ireland, and whether the founders of the Irish state had – like their US predecessors – been inspired by classical republican thought.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Carole Coleman, a former Washington Correspondent with RTÉ. Many of the questions from the floor focused on the current state of politics in the United States, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, as well as Senator Hart’s predictions for the future.