Academic | Posted 01.06.2016

Great Academies Guest of Honour: John Bruton

John Bruton, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, was this year’s Guest of Honour at Great Academies.

Mr Bruton began his speech by stating that Britain and Ireland had much in common, and were united by their sacrifices in the battles of Jutland and the Somme, both of which have their centenaries this year. He noted that the very first Victoria Cross of the First World War was awarded to an Irishman-  Maurice Dease – who attended Stonyhurst College: “His portrait hangs in your Great Hall, along with six other alumni who won VCs. But war is futile, and we shouldn’t have to remember them in this way” he said.

The former Taoiseach went on to make an impassioned case for the UK to remain in the European Union, saying that it had successfully ensured peace in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Mr Bruton said that we must “avoid conflict at all costs, and do all we can to build structures of connection and structures of peace”, pointing out that border controls between the north and south of Ireland would return if Britain left the EU: “British voters…ought to think of the risks that a British decision to leave might create for neighbouring countries in the EU, like Ireland” he said. “Voters need to think about the consequences for peace in Ireland of the deepening of the border that would flow from a Brexit decision on 23 June.” John Bruton played an important part in the Northern Ireland peace process, and in securing the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.