Stewart Eldon, the outgoing British Ambassador to Ireland wrote this article in today’s Irish Independent
"MOVING is the hardest part of diplomatic life, especially from a special posting. It has been an exceptional time to be in Ireland, which has left many lasting impressions.
The relationship between the UK and Ireland is maturing fast. With territorial differences settled by the Good Friday Agreement, it was natural for me to attend the 90th Anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising in April. The first official Irish commemoration of The Somme on 1 July was another important landmark. The ceremony was a clear signal of determination to pursue the cause of inclusiveness within this island
In parallel with the politics, mutually beneficial cooperation is becoming an increasingly accepted fact of life. Business between North and South is booming. There have been two joint overseas trade missions this year, with more to come. Developments like this can only underpin lasting peace.
Much has changed for the better over the last three years, including, crucially, the Provisional IRA's decision to decommission. Everyone should want to see a complete end to terrorism and paramilitary activity and support from all sides of the community for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I'm sure that is the wish of the great majority.
The last three years have seen developments in other areas. Irish Peacekeepers have served with British counterparts overseas in Bosnia, Kosovo, Liberia, Cyprus, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and many other operations. Trade and Investment continue to grow to mutual advantage. Many thousands of jobs, on both sides of the Irish Sea, have been created thanks to the investments UK and Irish businessmen have made in each others' countries.
We shall need to face new challenges together. The threat from international terrorism, people-trafficking and organised crime - on which cooperation between the relevant law enforcement agencies has never been better.
My three years here have confirmed one fundamental truth - that the United Kingdom and Ireland are so intertwined that we simply cannot be apart; 85pc of Irish people have friends or family in the UK. The relationship between Ireland and Britain will always be exceptional. But, increasingly, the time for exceptionalism in managing it is over."
There are many who I am sure will not see Anglo-Irish relations in the same way but Mr Eldon is correct to point out that there have been major changes in the relationship between the UK and Ireland. For so long Ireland was the poor neighbour whose greatest export was its people. No longer is this the case: the Celtic Tiger has created a prosperous and self assured nation. As a result the relationship between the two nations has never been on a more equal footing. The sordid tale of British domination of Ireland will never be forgotten but at least they are not an obstacle to progress.