Tuesday 17 September 2019

Former Taoisigh, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny, cited as potential mediators in Spanish-Catalan stand-off

Demonstrations in Barcelona yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Demonstrations in Barcelona yesterday. Photo: Reuters
John Downing

John Downing

The 1998 Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland could offer a framework to defuse the worsening row between Catalonia and Spain about the disputed independence referendum.

And former the names of former Taoisigh, Brian Cowen and Enda Kenny, are being cited as potential European mediators who could lead efforts to dial down the tension.

The regional government in Barcelona has upped the ante by threatening a unilateral declaration of independence for Catalonia next week. This has intensified calls for an international mediator to step in – preferentially someone from a small country based in Europe.

The Spanish government in Madrid continues to insist that it is an internal matter for Spain alone. But the Catalans argue that international mediation is required and further argue that the EU has an obligation to defend the rights of 7.5 million people in Catalonia.

The prestigious EU political magazine, Politico, has compiled a list of names being floated in Brussels as potential mediators.  It adds that Enda Kenny is seen as keen to take one or other of the top EU jobs in Brussels at the changing of the current crop in autumn 2019.

But former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has considerable hands-on experience in dealing with the problems of the North peace talks. He acted informally for the late Taoiseach Albert Reynolds at the start in the early 1990s; and was later Foreign and Finance Minister when further talks managed to salvage the North peace process from total breakdown.

Other names being mentioned are the hero of the Good Friday talks, former US Senator George Mitchell, and a host of other US politicians. Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is also cited.

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