Dublin, Monday, 17 October 2016: The special relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom must take centre stage in any deal negotiated between the UK and the European Union. This was the main finding of a seminar in Dublin hosted by European Movement (EM) Ireland, entitled ‘The UK’s Decision to Leave the EU’, which looked at various aspects of the UK’s EU referendum including polling, the media, the campaigns and the result.
A senior audience of business leaders and civil society actors heard from by a panel of speakers including:
- Richard Colwell, CEO, Red C Research
- Sebastian Hamilton, Editor, Irish Daily Mail
- Noelle O Connell, Executive Director, EM Ireland
- Noel Whelan, author, barrister, commentator.
The seminar was moderated by Mary Regan, Political Editor of UTV Ireland.
Speaking at the event Richard Colwell of Red C said that the one thing which was clear from the UK polling is that it was a ‘divided nation’. There were 168 polls taken between September 2015 and June 2016, which showed the UK close to being split in two within almost all of them. Mr Colwell also described the gap in education levels as the key issue in modern day politics, not only in the United Kingdom. He added that this was compounded by segmentation and said that huge challenges arose from this phenomenon, not just for polling, but for politics too.
Sebastian Hamilton, Group Editor at Associated Newspapers, cited 5 steps to success which were: Identify your audience; Pick the right medium; Find a trusted voice; Listen to the audience’s concerns; Deliver your message, but he said that the biggest message from the ‘Brexit’ campaign, was “finding the correct trusted voice is the single most important part of getting any message across.” Mr Hamilton stated that the ‘Remain’ side got this wrong from day one. Mr Hamilton concluded by saying that “Ireland is uniquely impacted by Brexit and must be given a special deal.”
European Movement Ireland’s Executive Director, Noelle O Connell said that the UK referendum was 40 years in the making and that it was therefore very difficult to reverse the underlying effects of negativity against the EU in a 4-month campaign. She highlighted EM Ireland’s ‘Phone A Friend’ campaign which reached more than 4 million online during week before the UK referendum. Ms O Connell also praised the efforts of the ‘Irish4Europe’ group which had brought together a range of Irish people in Britain to mobilise their vote and which she said, in spite of the result, had much to be proud of in terms of the campaign they had run.
Barrister and commentator Noel Whelan reflecting on the relationship between Britain and Ireland, characterised the Brexit vote as the greatest crisis for Ireland since the Troubles. He said, “This critical moment requires open, transparent, highly engaged national debate including wide collection of people here in Ireland.” Mr Whelan suggested that a body like the former Forum on Europe might make a good model for this.
Event moderator Mary Regan then facilitated a lively ‘Q&A’ session, which focussed on fisheries, a potential ‘Brexit’ Minister in the Irish government and the immigration issue.