Exclusive Interview with Ireland Ambassador HE Bredan Rogers
Q: How’s your visit to Myanmar?
A: I enjoy every visit to Myanmar. This is my fourth visit. I presented my credentials to your president in April. This visit is to enjoy your 69thIndependence celebration in Nay Pyi Taw.
We in Ireland always extend a hundred thousand welcome to visitors. A hundred thousand welcomes were extended to me on all my visits to Myanmar.
I am getting to know your beautiful country. I am getting to know a little bit of troubles meeting your leaders, meeting your people and meeting your civil society and business leaders and I am becoming very familiar with your wonderful country. And I hope over the year I will be the non-resident ambassador to Myanmar and I hope I can strengthen and deepen relations between both of our countries.
We have a very similar history. In 1922, Ireland celebrated a hundred years of independence. I hope the peoples of the two countries will get to know each other in a much better way, in deepening ways. Over the coming years, in culture, in politics, in business we want to see peoples of both of our countries extend business relationships. I want to see lots of our people will visit your country and I hope lots of your people visit my country.
Q: Ireland is one of the EU member countries, and followed a non-aligned foreign policy and a longstanding policy of military neutrality. Ireland is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Please tell us the role of Ireland in EU and United Nations peace-keeping missions.
A: Ireland joined the European Union 1973. I have seen my country transform. We liberalised and reformed the economy. Now Ireland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with a per capita income of over $50,000 per head. In 1962, 1963, our per capita income was $1,500 per head. One of the reasons for transformation was joining the European Union. When we joined with other countries in the EU, we ensured that we can sell to those markets. The EU also assists us to build up infrastructures and gives us opportunities to partake fully as a member of the union. We also contribute to the European Union as well. I believe, and people of my country believe, we must not build walls between nations. We must join with nations. This is a global economy. We play a role in the European Union in extending influence for peace building and increasing global trade. Ireland is a small and neutral country with 5 million people. Our country was born in conflicts. Our country was born in violence. We have a long history. We overcame all of those issues and played a role internationally. We joined the United Nations in 1955. Since that time we adopted a strong policy for the nuclear non-proliferation and that is the keystone for us in ensuring the peaceful resolution of disputes. We’ve played a major role in the United Nations peacekeeping. Many members of the Irish Defence Force lost their life in peacekeeping operations. We’ve been involved in peacekeeping operations in Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, in the Middle East. We have a history of bringing peace. We used our small voice. A small voice is very important in the United Nations system. That’s why we are very great supporter of the multilateral system. you have ASEAN. We have EU. Both of us are members of the United Nations. Hopefully we will continue to use our voice for peaceful resolution of disputes and for people to come closer together. That is very important in the global situation.
Q: Ireland has supported democracy and human rights in Myanmar. What’s your impression on Myanmar’s democratic transition?
A: We think great progress has been made. Our country was born in violence and conflict. in 1998 we signed a good agreement with Britain ending 30 years of conflicts. Overcoming issues of conflicts is different. It takes time. It takes dialogue. It takes inclusiveness. It takes patience. I’ve seen major positive changes in your country in a short period of time. But, there’s always a long way to go. It is important to ensure all people talk to each other. It is important for the people to keep the challenges of communication open. I have no doubt in due course we will see full peace in your country.
Q: Myanmar is now endeavouring democratic reforms, peace-building and also socio-economic reforms which are essentials for emergence of a federal democratic union. How about your opinions on the reforms.
A: Your country held a general election successfully and elected a government democratically last year. We congratulate your country’s major reforms. Reform takes a long time. Reform in my own country took a long time. Ireland has a 100-year old history. We had a very bloody conflict with Britain. We had an independence. Then we had a civil war for nine months and that ended in 1922. Since that time we had a peaceful reform. In 1933, we had a very difficult time with democratic elections. Those who lost in the civil war were elected. Economic reform also takes a long time. When I wander in your beautiful city, I see a lot of business activities. Your businesses are taking off. You have a new investment law which is hopefully attractive for international investors. Many tourists are coming. I see new airports in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon. These are excellent and wonderful infrastructures. Roads are getting better. Myanmar is starting a great journey of hope both in terms of democracy but also in term of socio-economic development. I always think if people have jobs, people will do well. I think all they really want are decent jobs. They want to send their children to school. They want a good family life. This all goes hand in hand with democracy, human rights and economic development.
Q: Myanmar has goodwill with Ireland. We receive the same from the Irish people. What’s your opinion on cultural and educational exchanges and granting scholarships to young aspiring ones?
A: People to people exchange is most important exchange of all. What a surprise when I walked around the book shops in the city and saw many translations of Irish classic that you can get in your own language. I’ve been amazed. That is much stronger connection of the literary nature between Ireland and Myanmar. That’s because they share history. I think we can really ensure that the link between our two nations is strong. The people can do that. There have been many students from Myanmar who are studying at Dublin University and other universities in Ireland as well. One of the things I know my government wants to do is open up relationships and more scholarships will be available for Myanmar students to go to Ireland for three or four years. We have just published a new international strategy on education. The core aim is to get more foreign students to study and work in Ireland for years and then come back to their own country. But it should not be a one way. It should be two ways. I would like to see more Irish academics here.