The future of research between Ireland and the UK in a post-Brexit world



Mags Walsh

Posted: 11 December, 2018

Mags Walsh, Director of the British Council in Ireland, has contributed this piece about the important relationship between the UK and Ireland from a research perspective. The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. They aim to create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries.

I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Irish Research Council’s excellent blog series on the theme of international relations. I joined the British Council as Director for Ireland just three months ago and I have been immersing myself in the concerns that exist about the future relationship between Ireland and the UK. The risks that Brexit brings have encouraged many sectors to evaluate the strength and impact of their ties between two near neighbours.

As neighbours, to an extent the relationship has had a certain “taken-for-granted status”. It has been easy to connect. Dublin to London is one of the busiest air traffic routes in the world. There are many direct personal and family connections as well as a shared majority language and a close cultural alignment.

From a research perspective the UK and Ireland have collaborated frequently. According to Royal Irish Academy and British Academy research from 2012 – 2016, over 12,000 research papers were produced from collaborations between Irish and UK researchers. More than all the publications with France and Germany combined.

So now, as we all weather a period of unprecedented change in the relationship, what can we do to keep relationships between Ireland and Britain strong? There are still many unknowns about what the next few months will bring but we can think about how we continue to nurture and grow relationships despite any obstacles. For us in British Council Ireland this means setting out a new five-year strategy for our work in Ireland to help guide and propel us forward.

The everyday of our work is to increase the people to people connection and grow relationships between Ireland and all four nations of the UK. We broker partnerships and support relationships in the arts and also have a vibrant science communication programme which reaches almost a dozen higher education institutes in Ireland.

Now more than ever, we are tending to personal relationships. We are taking time to be present with our partners, to celebrate connections and also asking Irish collaborators to think ambitiously with us about our future in Ireland.

The British Council is the oldest cultural relations organisation in the world, founded at another time of turmoil and change in the 1930’s. As we approach the organisation’s 30th anniversary in Ireland in 2020, and whatever happens next as the UK exits the EU, we are certain that more connections rather than less will benefit all.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.