On Thursday 18th February, Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS) Director Dr Anthony Soares attended a meeting with Co-Chairs of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee to discuss implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Dr Antony Soares highlighted the importance of this meeting not becoming a one-off event, and that it should instead represent the beginning of a joint process of engagement by the UK & EU with civic society and community organisations, enabling a direct line of communication with those involved in the implementation and monitoring of the Protocol. The CCBS director also stressed that sustainable solutions will not be found if they are sought exclusively by speaking with one particular sector in Northern Ireland, nor will they be found by looking exclusively within one jurisdiction on this island or these islands. Decision makers must continually refer to the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, were the protection of all three strands are vital to the protection of the Agreement as a whole, in the decision making process.
Dr Soares, representing CCBS and the Ad-Hoc Group for North/South & East/West Relations, stated that both are ready to help in the search for solutions that will safeguard relations within and across these islands, highlighting some of their ongoing work. The Centre is currently in the process of launching a quarterly survey which will allow us to measure any changes to levels of North/South and East/West collaboration among civic society organisations. The survey which is currently in its pilot stage will be launched in time for the end of the first quarter of 2021. The Ad-Hoc Group for North/South & East/West Cooperation, which was established in May 2020, will continue its efforts to secure the continued means to cooperate within and between these islands, with the Group presenting suggestions on how a process of engagement with civic society could be structured in the coming days.
Civic society organisations have been at the forefront of supporting communities during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The same can be said in the brokerage and maintenance of a more peaceful society – civic society organisations have worked hard to maintain, support and develop relations during all of the political uncertainty over the past number of years. With the proper resourcing, they will again prove themselves as invaluable partners in the task of shaping the new context we find ourselves in so that it can properly accommodate all our hopes and aspirations and maintain positive relations within and across these islands.
A summary of the key issues raised at the meeting by Dr Anthony Soares is available below: