May 8, 2001

Cross Currents Book Series

Cross Currents is a new series of short books featuring essays by leading intellectual figures in Ireland, North and South, on issues of current importance to the people of both jurisdictions. The first three books features essays on multi-culturalism, the ‘island economy’ and human rights. The series aims to open up a higher and more informed level of debate about such issues in the new context of closer North/South relations created by the Good Friday Agreement. The authors have been invited to question and challenge received wisdom and outdated ideas in this exciting new era.

Each short book contains two extended essays, one by a Northern writer and one by a Southern writer, on a current theme of importance to both jurisdiction, with a short introduction by another figure of international repute.

Cross Currents, a joint initiative by Cork University Press and the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh, was launched in Dublin on the 8th May by Supreme Court judge Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness. The books include:

Multi-culturalism: the view from the two Irelands

Introduction by President Mary McAleese

cover of Multi-culturalism: the view from the two Irelands

Two of Ireland’s most outspoken critics and cultural commentators, Edna Longley from the North and Declan Kiberd from the South, put forward views on the contrasting directions in which the two societies on the island are moving. Professor Longley asks whether Northerners will increasingly identify with Northern Ireland as a shared point of reference. Will they develop a more flexible sense of their relations with the Republic and a post-devolution Britain? Professor Kiberd asks whether a newly prosperous and confident Republic is genuinely embracing multi-culturalism. Is it moving towards a post-nationalist society which commits its citizens to a truly pluralist vision? What does it mean to be Irish at the turn of the 21st century?

Can the Celtic Tiger cross the Irish border?

Introduction by Peter Sutherland

Esmond Birnie (economics lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, Unionist politician and Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly) from the North: What, if anything, can Northern Ireland learn from the success of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy in the Republic? Is the low level of trade and economic interchange between the two Irish jurisdictions really that abnormal in European terms? Should Northern Irish firms concentrate on the British or the southern Irish markets? Can you have a successfully co-ordinated island economy in two separate political jurisdictions? What will be the role of the Euro?

John Bradley (prominent economics professor and analyst at the Economic and Social Research Institute) from the South: What can Northern Ireland learn from the relative success of the Republic’s economic planning of the past 40 years and the spectacular growth of the past seven years? Are there mistakes in the South’s strategy that the North should not repeat? Should the North’s 2010 economic strategy document pay more attention to cross-border trade and investment? Does it make sense in economic terms for the island to trade and seek investment as one unit in a globalised economy? What will be the role of the Euro?

Towards a culture of human rights in Ireland?

Introduction by Mary Robinson

Stephen Livingstone (Director, Human Rights Centre, Queen’s University Belfast) from the North: Will the setting up of equality and human rights commissions and the overhaul of the criminal justice system enable Northern Ireland to move from being Western Europe’s human rights ‘black spot’ to becoming a model for other countries? What role can the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement play in bringing about a new human rights and equality ‘culture’ in the North? How central are they to that process? How do you achieve the right balance between a human rights culture and the continuing need for security against terrorism?

Ivana Bacik (Reid Professor of Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin; former student leader and outspoken civil liberties advocate) from the South: Can a new human rights culture take root in the Republic in parallel with developments in the North? How effective will the new equality legislation be? How does the Republic treat its minorities: refugees, travellers etc.? What about the continuing problems of the erosion of the rights of the accused (limits on bail and the right to silence), prisoners’ rights and conditions in prisons, children’s rights, the right to life of the unborn (or the right of a woman to have an abortion) etc.