Sovereignty, Debt and Equity in a Time of Crisis

October 23 and 24, 2013

Royal Irish Academy

Dublin, Ireland


As the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising was being commemorated, the economy of the Irish state was growing for the first time since independence, the South was peaceful and the North pacified. It seemed that the resolve of the 1916 revolutionaries ‘to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts’ might well be achieved. Today as we approach the Rising’s hundredth anniversary, the economy is in crisis, the foundations of the republic are undermined by the loss of social solidarity and of economic sovereignty, and the cost of bailing out the banks has saddled the children of the nation with almost unimaginable debt. With the crisis being seen in Berlin and Brussels as an opportunity to advance the deeper integration of Europe, one might well ask if the only role to be left to the nation-state is that of debtor.


Where did the notion of Irish sovereignty begin? Does it have any meaning at the present conjuncture? What does it mean in the European context? Can a social contract as Rousseau imagined it exist today when global capital is not party to it? And what of debt? Where, if at all, does it fit into the social contract, or does it in fact short-circuit it? Has a sovereign government a greater responsibility to the stability of the market than to the well-being of its its citizens (or is it the case that the latter depends on the former)? Is there a moral, is there a legal, basis for a sovereign government to transfer private debt to its citizens? Is there a moral, is there a legal basis, for defaulting on sovereign debt?


This major two-day conference, to be held in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, looks at the country’s debt crisis as the Irish Republic approaches the centenary of its proclamation in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. The crisis has raised fundamental questions about national sovereignty in a globalized economy with attendant issues of democracy and social justice. Interdisciplinary in approach and international in scope, the conference will bring together leading scholars in the fields of economics, history, sociology, literature and law, as well as key figures in the Irish media.

For further information, please contact:

Co-Chairs:  Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, Professor of Irish Language and Literature, Concurrent

                   Professor of Anthropology                              




                   Declan Kiberd, Professor of English, Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish                                          

                   Studies and Fellow of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies




                   Christopher Fox, Professor of English, Director of the Keough-Naughton Institute for          

                   Irish Studies, Fellow of the Nanovic Institute of European Studies