The China syndrome: Can Ireland speak truth to power?

High-profile figures such as former taoiseach Enda Kenny defend the activities of think-tanks, such as the Ireland China Institute, as ‘apolitical’. But as concerns grow over China’s human rights abuses, coercive diplomacy and the detention of Irish businessman Richard O’Halloran, are they wrong to do so?

Enda Kenny: ‘The Ireland China Institute is an independent think tank. It is apolitical.’ Picture: Bloomberg

Enda Kenny took a sip from his mug and unmuted his microphone on Zoom before he opened last Thursday’s Ireland China Institute (ICI) conference by stating it was an “apolitical” body.

The conference was about climate change and how the world’s great powers can better cooperate to tackle the problem, but the fact that it was being hosted by the UCD Confucius Institute had caused misgivings among academic staff who believe this is evidence that ...