After Brexit: What Next For Ireland, The European Union, And Democracy?

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This is a Satellite event of the Battle of Ideas

brexitThe UK’s decision to leave the European Union has had a seismic effect on the political landscape of these islands and Europe as a whole. Following the June referendum, any number of previously-assumed certainties appear to be in flux, and the result was so unexpected that even those who campaigned to leave were wrong-footed. Not the least of these was Boris Johnson, whose muted press conference on the morning of June 24 spoke volumes about how the referendum result disoriented official campaigners on both sides.

The questions – and the tensions – raised by the result are not confined to the UK. In Ireland, speculation about the impact of Brexit has been about much more than the economy – it has brought to the fore issues about borders, security and identity, with talk of the 32 counties once again prominent in the national conversation. As for the European Union, Brexit has occasioned predictions of a domino effect, apparently emboldening Eurosceptic feeling in the Scandinavian member states, Mediterranean countries, the Netherlands and even France. But another, perhaps more significant locus of contention has surfaced since the referendum: democracy itself.

Voices inveighing against the demos were not isolated, or lacking influence. Richard Dawkins and A.C. Grayling were among those who averred that many voters could not possess the insight to weigh such a profound question as the UK’s EU membership, rehearsing an argument that reaches back to Plato’s ‘Republic’, and has had, in a variety of forms, many outings since. And calls for a second referendum are so commonplace that eyebrows were barely raised when Owen Smith announced his Labour leadership campaign with a promise to fight to keep Britain in the EU.

Will Ireland benefit or suffer from Britain’s departure? Is the EU a busted flush, incapable of reform, or can it now surge ahead, free of its historically most truculent member? Does the EU even need to reform, or does its supranational arrangement better reflect our globalised future than sovereign nation states can? And has democracy itself had its day, sullied by demagoguery and the rise of the far-right? Ultimately, does Brexit prove Plato correct – is politics better left to philosopher-kings, or in their modern incarnation, experts?

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7 p.m. Friday November 11, 2016


College of Computing Technology, 30-34 Westmoreland St., Dublin 2


sabineSabine Beppler-Spahl

Chair of the German liberal Think Tank Freiblickinstitut e.V., which publishes the Freedom Manifesto, organiser of the Berlin Salons, and the CEO of Sprachkunst36 (a language school based in Berlin). Sabine studied at economics at the University of Hamburg and is a regular contributor to the German magazine NovoArgumente, and has published articles in spiked, Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Zeitschrift Merkur and other publications.

johnJohn O’Brennan

Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration, Maynooth University, Department of Sociology, Centre for European and Eurasian Studies. His work focuses on European Integration and the EU institutions and, specifically on the process and politics of the EU’s Enlargement policy. John currently finishing a monograph which examines the EU’s role in the Western Balkans and will shortly begin a project examining the role of the European Commission in the post-accession process in Bulgaria and Romania. He also work on the Irish relationship with the European Union and will publish an edited volume with Mary C. Murphy of UCC on Ireland’s four decades of membership of the EU in 2014.

Nikos2Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos

Lecturer in Sociology, Loughborough University. He is interested in how in the last decades some of the core values and concepts of the modernity project, such as economic growth and individual agency have been problematized in the narratives both of the New Left and of the political and intellectual elites. His short term research plans include the study of the rise of the ‘sharing economy’ and its sociological implications. He has also published on issues around the globalization process and its discontents, the forms of action and narratives of the anti-austerity movement in Greece and the internationalization of protest in the 2011 wave of contention, with a focus on the Occupy London campaign.

Dr Eoin O’Malley

Senior Lecturer in Political Science, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University. His research is mainly on Irish politics and particularly on cabinet government in Ireland, though he also does work on the Irish party system, media coverage of Irish elections and as a member of the academic team of We the Citizens, an Atlantic Philanthropies-sponsored pilot citizens’ assembly, he is also interested in deliberative democracy and public policy. He has recently conducted research which included experiments on the impact of information on opinion change. Eoin wrote a textbook, Contemporary Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan 2011), and co-edited two other books on Irish politics. He is a former co-editor of Irish Political Studies. Eoin is a frequent contributor to national debates on political reform.

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