With community groups from the island of Ireland and Great Britain having agreed a vision for cooperation across borders that will maintain relations in whatever context may arise from the UK’s departure from the EU, the resulting New Common Charter for Cooperation Within and Between these Islands was taken to the Oireacthas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on the 9th of May, and to the 58th Plenary Session of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. These events marked the beginning of a process of engagement with policy and decision-makers across these islands, which comes as part of the final stage of the “Towards a New Common Chapter” project that began in late 2015 and has been generously funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Community Relations Council, and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund.
CCBS Acting Director, Anthony Soares, was joined at the appearance before the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement by Louise Coyle (Director of Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network), Tara Farrell (Deputy CEO of Longford Women’s Link), and Eilidh Dickson (Policy and Parliamentary Manager at Engender, from Scotland). Members of the Committee were given an overview of the work that went into the development of the New Common Charter, and why community organisations were looking for support to enable continuing dialogue and cooperation between communities on the island of Ireland, and between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, in line with the core strands and values of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (you can download the opening statement to the Committee here).
A similar message was taken to the members of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly, who are drawn from all the parliaments and assemblies across these islands, including from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, and were meeting in Plenary Session in Co. Wicklow. CCBS’s Acting Director, who made an address to the Plenary was joined by Gary English, a member of the Board of the Rural Community Network. It was again stressed how all administration across these islands need to ensure structures and funding are in place to support and encourage community organisations – particularly smaller, grass-roots groups – to come together and cooperate across the various borders and boundaries on issues they see as relevant to them (you can download the opening address to the Assembly here).
At both events, it was pointed how there is a lack of platforms for cross-border, cross-jurisdictional dialogue and cooperation at civic society level, and how community relations within and between these islands could benefit from similar opportunities to those provided to parliamentarians to come together for important discussions. Members of the Oireachtas Committee and the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly were also asked to support the New Common Charter by letting other political representatives know about it, by ensuring policies and funding programmes are designed to enable cooperation between community organisations across these islands, and by engaging with the “Towards a New Common Chapter” project as it seeks to bring the New Common Charter to all the legislative bodies on the island of Ireland and Great Britain.
If you would like to find out more about the “Towards a New Common Chapter” project, and if your organisation would like to show its support for the New Common Charter for Cooperation Within and Between these Islands, please visit http://crossborder.ie/towards-a-new-common-chapter/.