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Guest Speakers

ACADEMIC YEAR 2015/2016

From the Frontline series: (for more talks in this series visit  here (will be in archives) 

Terry McCarthy

‘Reporting on War’

Terry has immense experience as a reported having travelled the world for television and print media for 27 years, covering politics, business, military, social and environmental issues across the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America.  He has managed bureaus in the US and overseas, and set up two bureaus in war zones.

He spoke on how his experiences as a war correspondent led him to question “why am I doing this?” and ponder the value of reporting on “grotesque atrocities.”  His talk outlined what he views as the responsibility of the war correspondent in addressing this question.  He focused on three key areas of responsibility.  The first is to be present, to “bear witness” to the costs of war – he reminded us that some of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century, from the Holocaust to the many millions killed under Mao’s regime in China, were carried out beyond the gaze of inquiring media.

The second responsibility he cited is to help “disentangle myth from reality,” particularly to challenge the idea that “we can wage war without cost,” a fallacy promoted too commonly in the United States  in relation to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The third responsibility is to “inform what should be a constructive debate” about both the causes and costs of war.  He noted that “ISIS are bad but if you don’t know why they do what they do you are not going to stop them.”

He also commented on his experiences embedded with US forces in Iraq ands remarked on the limiting nature of the embed system as it restricts access to Iraqi sources and stories.  In the lengthy question and answer session following his talk, he discussed the funding of foreign correspondents, access to war zones, the role of social media on war reportin,g and impact of PTSD on reporters.  The talk is available to view on YouTube

 

The American Presidential Election and its Relevance to Ireland 

Stella O’Leary (Irish American Democrats) in conversation with Conor O’Clery

O’Leary is the founder and current president of Irish American Democrats and a Hillary Clinton Campaign fundraiser.  The journalist Conor O’Clery, formerly the Irish Times correspondent in Washington, interviewed her.  She began by recounting her role in the establishment of Irish Democrats Abroad, founded in 1995 to support the re-election of President Clinton, noting that it was the first Irish political action committee in the United States

Asked why Irish Democrats Abroad was not supporting the campaign of Martin O’Malley, who promotes his strong Irish identity, O’Leary observed that “for Ireland’s interests, Hillary would be able to accomplish more”.  On the myth or reality of an Irish American vote, she noted that the importance of Irish American to politicans is that they are “terrific voters,” and pointed out that one in four members of Congress are Irish American

On the campaign of Bernie Sanders, she argued that it represented a dissenting, anti-establishment strain among Democrat voters, and especially younger voters.  While she believes his campaign will not be successful she credits him with influencing Hillary Clinton by “pushing her a little more to the left”.

Questions from the floor occasioned discussion on the campaign of Donald Trump, possibly running maters for Hillary Clinton, Sinn Fain’s fund-raising activities in the US, why the Irish American vote turned Republican, and the impact on Irish-US relations of the UK leaving the EU.  The talk is available to view on YouTube. .

 ACADEMIC 2014/2015 

From the Frontline Series 

“Conflict in Syria” 19th Nov. 2014 

Nader Hashemi (Center for Middle East Studies, University of Denver)

Patrick Smyth (Foreign Policy Editor, The Irish Times)

The talk focused on the question of how policymakers and media in the West should respond to the interrelated problems of the rise of ISIS and relations with the Assad regime.

Smyth focused on the idea of “humanitarian intervention” and argued that there is a quietism in Ireland about the ethics and politics of international action, reflecting in some part the history of Irish “neutrality” and which has led to “self-indulgent agonizing about military action”.  Hasmemi spoke of “the pivotal moment” in Syria as the rise of ISIS poses fresh challenges in the region and globally.  He noted the origins of the Syrian conflict in the “Arab Spring” with the 2011 uprising promising the overthrow of the House of Al-Assad.  To date, he argued, the international community – and most significantly the United States- has failed to act to remove Assad either by political or military means.  He said that the conflict was destabilising the region in ways that threatened US national security interests, rejunvenating Al-Qaeda and heightening sectarian divisions across the Arab-Islamic world.  He also stated that “Today, Syria is a moral litmus test for the international community” which is failing to act in the face of state-sanctioned war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He argued for the use of force to save starving civilians and to “change the battlefield conditions” with a view to shifting the negotiations.

The audience took up the discussion with some zeal and there were lively comments on “Ireland’s response” to the conflict, with attention to both political and media elites.

Midterm Elections

22nd October 2014

The Institute and the US Embassy Dublin organised a public discussion about the upcoming midterm elections in the United States, Richard Downes, of RTE, moderated a panel discussion that included Larry Donnelly of UCG, Paul Gillespie of The Irish Times, and Dr. Jack Thompson (UCD Clinton Institute) .

The discussion included several components.  Firstly, Jack Thompson provided a structural overview of American politics.  He noted that while demographic trends increasingly favour Democrats in Presidential elections, Republicans enjoy a structural advantage when it comes to Congress, especially in midterm election years, when tournout is lower, older, and whiter.  He also discussed the reason for growing political polarisation as well as the roles played by race, gender and inequality. In particular, he noted the increasing diversity in the US and the fact that even as a percentage of Latino voters increases every four years, the percentage of while voters shrinks by about two percent.  He also predicted that HIllary Clinton would run for President in 2016 and discussed the reasons why she ins the current front-runner.

Larry Donnelly discussed some of the current issues in American politics, such as inequality and he also provided a detailed analysis of some close races in states such as Kansas and Kentucky.  Then Paul Gillespie covered US foreign policy.  He focused on current challenges such as the civil war in Syria, relations with Russia and the economic crisis in Europe.

Finally, the panelists made predictions about the elections – all predicted that Republicans would maintain a sizeable majority in the House of Representatives and take control of the Senate.