The plenary next welcomed a very distinguished guest speaker, Martin Mansergh TD, a member of the Irish Parliament and Minister of State, and somebody who played a very important part in the Irish peace process. With us on St Patrick’s day, his chosen theme was ‘The European Union and cross-border cooperation with Ireland.’ In his opening remarks, he explained that he had something in common with the Secretary General (me!) since he had also studied politics, philosophy and economics and he went on to recount that he had once passed an open competition to become a civil servant at the EESC. He would have worked for the Committee if his career in Ireland had not taken off at the same time. But his speech was on a theme dear to our Irish members, from north and south. Both during his speech, and in the following exchange, it felt like we were listening in to a reunion between near and dear friends whose friendship had been forged in a historic and common endeavour – enduring peace. The underlying theme was clear; politicians may have had to find the compromises, but civil society made the thing stick.