THERE was no spare seat to be had in St Canice’s Cathedral last Friday evening, as British journalist and historian Misha Glenny delivered the annual Hubert Butler Lecture.
The event has become an eagerly-anticipated staple of the festival’s calendar each year, attracting notable speakers in the past, including Morgan Kelly, Robert Fisk and Samantha Power. Glenny was Central Europe Correspondent, first for the Guardian and then for the BBC. His topic last Friday was Sarajevo, the war, and the Balkans.
As is tradition, the speaker was introduced by Olivia O’ Leary. In her introduction, Ms O’ Leary recalled that Hubert Butler had himself travelled to the former Yugoslavia in the 1930s, and again after World War II.
She said that he had been ostracised – and even asked to leave the Kilkenny Archaeological Society – when he revealed that the Catholic Church had cooperated with the Ustaše in persecution and forced conversions in the country.
Mr Glenny then spoke for around 45 minutes, recalling his experiences in the region, and the personal relationships he developed there. He discussed the collapse of communism, what caused the wars, and why the international community was so ponderous in its intervention.
Mr Glenny also ventured his thoughts on the current situation of the Balkans, and the repercussions of difficulties in the Eurozone, which has weakened the EU’s hand in its strategies for the region. Most notably, he delved into the disastrous consequences of a Greek Euro exit for the region, and the heavy investment of Balkan states in the Greek system.
“We are in the heart of a global crisis started in the Balkans, but not by the Balkans,” he said.