December 1, 2017

CCBS Annual Conference 2018: The Good Friday Agreement in all its parts: safeguarding the totality of relationships

Date: 8 – 9 March 2018

Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dundalk

As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement we must ask ourselves how we continue to put into practice our commitment to the totality of relations within and between these islands that it represents.  The Strand 1 institutions (the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly) have not functioned since January 2017, and therefore without Northern Ireland Ministers, there have been no North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meetings (Strand 2), although there remains cooperation at Departmental level and the NSMC Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat continues to function. The Strand 3 bodies – the British Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) – should in the context of Brexit be increasingly important mechanisms for cooperation. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stated that under the Good Friday Agreement “if nothing’s devolved then everything is devolved to the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference” and that he would be calling for a meeting of the BIIGC early in 2018.

All of this, of course, coincides with the negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU in which issues related to Ireland/Northern Ireland are central. The negotiations have indicated that there are at least 141 policy areas/powers returning from the EU which intersect with the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland. While all parties to the negotiations have stated their support for the Agreement “in all its parts”, it is not clear if there is common understanding of what this means or what are their associated obligations.

The 2018 Conference will bring together some of the people centrally involved in drafting and implementing the 1998 Agreement and the Devolution settlement for Northern Ireland, people who have since had responsibility for its implementation and others whose work as peacebuilders and cross-border cooperation practitioners has given life and substance to the ethos and objectives of the Agreement through good times and bad.

Our opening keynote speaker will be Dr Martin Mansergh, a key architect of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The pre-dinner speaker on Thursday evening will be Mr Tony Connelly, Europe Editor for RTE.

Please fill out and return the Conference Booking Form to secure your place.

The Draft Conference Programme is available here.


For more information please contact


Date / Time Event Details Watch/Listen


Dr Helen Johnston, Chair, Centre for Cross Border Studies


Opening address – Speaker to be confirmed


Keynote address

Brexit: The constitutional issues for the UK, Ireland and Northern Ireland

Dr Martin Mansergh, Vice Chair, Expert Advisory Group on Commemorations


Panel Discussion
Human rights and the Good Friday Agreement
CHAIR: Dr Anna Bryson, Board Member, Centre for Cross Border Studies
Ms Paddy Kelly, Director, Children’s Law Centre
Professor Siobhan Mullally, Director and Established Professor of Human Rights Law, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway
Mr Daniel Holder, Deputy Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice
Mr Michael Farrell, Former Director, Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC)


Keynote address – Speaker to be confirmed


Panel Discussion

Devolution agreements from the Good Friday Agreement to Brexit and beyond

CHAIR: Mr Colin Stutt, Board Member, Centre for Cross Border Studies

Mr David Brew, former UK Cabinet Secretariat and former Joint Secretary, British-Irish Council

Dr Etain Tannam, Assistant Professor International Peace Studies, Irish School of Ecumenics

Ms Brid Rodgers,

Mr Jim Gibney, Irish News Columnist, Sinn Féin member

Other speakers to be confirmed



The new Common Chapter for cooperation within and between these islands

Dr Anthony Soares, Deputy Director, Centre for Cross Border Studies


Review of day 1

Ms Ruth Taillon, Director, Centre for Cross Border Studies


Pre-dinner speaker:

Mr Tony Connelly, Europe Editor, RTÉ


Opening remarks

Dr Helen Johnston, Chair, Centre for Cross Border Studies


Keynote address

How do we continue to moderate each other’s views through the Brexit process?

Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Conservative Party



Building and maintaining relationships

CHAIR: Dr Anthony Soares, Deputy Director, Centre for Cross Border Studies

Mr Steve Aiken MLA, Ulster Unionist Party

Mr Fergal Mythen, Director General, Ireland, UK and Americas Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Prof John O’Brennan, Jean Monnet Prof of European Integration, NUI Maynooth

Mr Justin McNulty MLA, SDLP

Steven Farry MLA, Alliance Party

Other speakers to be confirmed


Panel Discussion

Safeguarding the totality of relationships

CHAIR: Mr Tony Kennedy OBE, Board Member, Centre for Cross Border Studies

Mr Earl Storey, Board Member, Centre for Cross Border Studies  

Mr Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Mr John Webster, Scottish Government Representative to Ireland

Mr Michael D’Arcy, D’Arcy Smyth and Associates and IBEC-CBI Joint Business Council