On Thursday 4 February, UCD hosted ‘After Empire: Leaders’ Discussion’, bringing former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, and former Indian Minster of External Affairs, Salman Khurshid. Joined on stage by Professor Mary Daly, Dr Art Cosgrove and Dr Conor Mulvagh, the leaders discussed the commonalities and differences of experience emerging from the British Empire.
Independence is not a moment but a process and the lively discussion in O’Reilly Hall explored the routes to incrementally achieved freedom charted by these three modern states. This wide-ranging and fascinating discussion ended on the question of Scotland’s independence. On this, the speakers were divided. Mr Khurshid commented with amusement that the Scots might be invited to just such an event as ‘After Empire’ in the years ahead. Mr Mbeki sounded a word of timely warning of the potential implications of Scottish, or indeed Catalan, independence and how this might have an impact on the integration of Europe’s new refugees in regions only just trying to articulate their own autonomous national identity. Mr Mkapa, meanwhile, observed that the break up of the United Kingdom would have ‘very serious implications’ for modern Tanzania and could bring into question the precarious union with Zanzibar. Such insights show just how interconnected our independent but deeply interdependent states have become in the modern world.
The leaders also attended a student seminar, giving postdoctoral and masters students unprecedented access to the open question and answer session.