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29 Sep 2022

Bringing together a range of key decision and policy-makers, leading academics, civil society representatives and commentators, the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ 23rd Annual Conference considered how the current commitment to cooperation, mobility and relations within and across these islands can be sustained in light of new challenges. While civic society organisations, local authorities and businesses have demonstrated significant resilience and perseverance in collaborating and maintaining North-South, East-West and wider relations since the UK’s departure from the EU, what new approaches do they and relevant governments and institutions need to safeguard those relations?

On the first day of the conference (29 September), as well as a special conference keynote address, and two further keynote speakers, there were three panel discussions focusing on cross-border cooperation, mobility and relations respectively. The opening day also saw a reception to launch the 17th edition of the Journal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland, followed by a conference dinner with a guest speaker.

The second day (30 September, morning only) consisted of a technical workshop exploring a number of core challenges being faced by organisations involved in North-South and all-island cooperation, such as cross-border remote working and charitable status. It was aimed specifically at organisations active in the field of cross-border cooperation and mobility, and the workshop will be followed by a panel session on policy responses to the issues raised.

Special Conference Keynote Address: Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD

Keynote addresses:

  • Bernadette McAliskey – CEO, South Tyrone Empowerment Programme
  • Paul Johnston – British Ambassador to Ireland

Panel discussions focussed on

  • Cooperation featuring Dr Anthony Soares, Dr Lisa Claire Whitten and Ivan Cooper.
  • Cross-border Mobility featuring Owen Reidy, Sam Lowe, Dr Sheila Flanagan and Prof. Anne Looney.
  • Relations featuring Jack O’Connor, Sorcha Eastwood MLA, Lauren Kerr and Desmond Clifford.

Dinner Speaker

  • Brian Rowan – author of Political Purgatory, commentator and former BBC journalist
Tweets relevant to the Conference can be viewed using the hashtag  #CCBSconf
We are delighted that our Conference was generously supported by Foyle Port. Given its location, Foyle Port operates on a cross border basis and therefore understands the importance of the topics we will be discussing. Find out more here:

Conference speakers

Micheál Martin TD

Micheál Martin TD

Taoiseach & Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South-Central

Micheál Martin has been Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South-Central since 1989, Leader of the party since 2011 and has held the office of Taoiseach since June 2020.

The Taoiseach will deliver a keynote speech on 29 September focused on the Government’s
commitment to work with all communities on the island to build consensus around a shared future, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.

Bernadette McAliskey

Bernadette McAliskey

Chief Executive | South Tyrone Empowerment Programme

Bernadette has a long history of Human Rights activism. She is currently Chief Executive of South Tyrone Empowerment Programme (STEP), a rights-based community organisation providing direct support services in advice, development of self- advocacy, community work, social enterprise and strategic engagement. STEP established a successful community development centre in The Junction which provides support across all communities and beliefs in Mid Ulster, prioritising the most disadvantaged. Her day-to-day practice and commitment has always been in the small places of neighbourhood and home, while engaging in public debates at the highest level on social policy and economics, equipped with the evidence -base of that practice. She has been a strong advocate of immigration as a net gain for Ireland pluralist society and strong diverse and democratic economy.

Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston

British Ambassador to Ireland

September 2020 – appointed as British Ambassador to Ireland 

2017 – 2020 Brussels, UK Ambassador to the EU for Political and Security Affairs, UK Permanent Representation to the EU 

2015 – 2017 Brussels, Deputy Permanent Representative, UK Permanent Representation to NATO 

2011 – 2015 Stockholm, Her Majesty’s Ambassador 

2008 – 2010 FCO, Director, International Security 

2005 – 2008 New York, Political Counsellor, UK Mission to the United Nations 

2002 – 2004 FCO, Head, Security Policy Department 

1999 – 2002 FCO, Various roles including Head of Kosovo Policy Team; Head of European Defence Section; and Deputy Head of Department for EU External Policy 

1995 – 1999 Paris, Private Secretary to Her Majesty’s Ambassador and subsequently Second Secretary covering, inter alia, the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia 

1993 – 1995 FCO, Desk Officer for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eastern Adriatic Department 

1990 – 1993 Ministry of Defence, roles including on International Procurement Policy, Resources and Programmes (Navy) and as Private Secretary to the 2nd Permanent Under Secretary 

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan

Author & Journalist

Brian Rowan is a former BBC correspondent and security editor in Belfast. 

Since the late 1980s, he has reported on all the major developments on Northern Ireland’s journey from war to peace; the ceasefires, political agreements, prisoner releases, police reform, demilitarisation, the ending of the armed campaign and the numerous efforts to build a legacy process. 

Four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast awards, including twice as Specialist Journalist of the Year. 

He left the BBC in 2005, the year the IRA ended its armed campaign.  

He still comments and writes regularly on the issue of legacy, and his analysis is often sought on the troubled politics of peace.  

Rowan’s latest book – ‘Living with Ghosts’ – is due to be published in September. 

Dr Anthony Soares

Dr Anthony Soares

Director | Centre for Cross Border Studies

Dr Anthony Soares is Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies. His role includes leading in the development and advocacy of policies at regional, national and European levels that support sustainable cross-border and transnational cooperation. This has increasingly meant coordinating CCBS’s responses to the UK’s referendum on EU membership and its aftermath, publishing Briefing Papers and reports, submitting evidence to parliamentary committees in both Westminster and Dublin, and consulting with a range of political representatives and organisations on the island of Ireland, Great Britain and in Europe. 

Ivan Cooper

Ivan Cooper

Director of Public Policy | The Wheel

Ivan is Director of Public Policy with The Wheel and works to progress supportive public policy for the community and voluntary sector on issues such as charity regulation, funding the work of the sector, enabling active-citizenship, and achieving best governance standards.  Ivan also works to raise awareness of the crucial role and significance of the work of this often invisible sector. 

Ivan spends a lot of time engaging with the 2,000 members of The Wheel to identify the issues they face and to work with them to agree the changes needed with the relevant authorities and regulators. There is a lot of media interest in the work of charities and Ivan works with the media when required to put forward The Wheel’s perspective on issues in the news. 

Ivan represents The Wheel on a range of fora, national and international, and also act as one of The Wheel’s lead trainers in the areas of governance, strategic leadership and demonstrating impact. He works regularly with boards of community and voluntary groups about their governance and trustee responsibilities. Ivan is a big believer in lifelong learning and has an MBA from Smurfit Business School, a Diploma in Development Studies, and a primary degree in psychology and philosophy from UCD. 

Dr Lisa Claire Whitten

Dr Lisa Claire Whitten

Research Fellow | Queen's University Belfast

Dr Lisa Claire Whitten is a Research Fellow on the ESRC-funded project ‘Governance for ‘a place between’: the Multi-Levelled Dynamics of Implementing the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland’ based at Queen’s University Belfast.  

She completed her doctoral dissertation last year on the constitutional implications of Brexit for Northern Ireland. Prior to studying for her PhD, Lisa Claire held a variety of posts in the political and public sector including working for the Office of the Northern Ireland Executive in Brussels and for a Member of the UK Parliament in Westminster. 

Owen Reidy

Owen Reidy

Assistant General Secretary | Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Owen Reidy is the Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU with particular responsibility for Northern Ireland. Prior to taking up this position in November 2016, he was a Divisional Organiser in SIPTU with national responsibility for transport, energy, aviation and construction, serving on SIPTU’s senior management team. During this time he led a number of successful industrial disputes including in the Luas, Dublin Bus and Irish Rail. Since becoming AGS with ICTU he has been working on a range of issues with the ICTU 25 NI unions representing 200,000 members including Brexit, workers’ rights, the promotion of collective bargaining and social dialogue. 

Sam Lowe

Sam Lowe

Partner | Flint Global

Sam heads the trade and market access practice at Flint Global. In addition, he is a senior visiting research fellow at The Policy Institute, Kings College London, and writes the weekly Substack trade newsletter, Most Favoured Nation. He has published extensively on trade issues relating to Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

Sam was previously a member of the UK government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group (2019-2020) and has held positions as a senior advisor to the Blakeney Group, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, and the Brexit and trade lead for the environmental charity, Friends of the Earth. Sam regularly appears in the broadcast and print media, including the BBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, The Telegraph, Politico, The i, and Sky News. 

Dr Sheila Flanagan

Dr Sheila Flanagan

Vice President & Registrar | Dundalk Institute of Technology

Sheila is currently Vice President and Registrar Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Institute and is responsible for the leadership and coordination of the Institute’s academic policy and quality assurance through the Institute’s Academic Council. Sheila works directly with academic and functional leadership  in promoting the quality, relevance and development of the Institute’s portfolio of programmes and is secretary of the Academic Council. 

She has worked in higher education with a diverse range of institutions delivering across various areas including advancing modularisation, developing strategies for retention, promoting international best practice, responding to industry needs in a meaningful manner and interfacing with external agencies.  

Developed and served as programme manager for the MBS in Travel and Tourism Management at the Smurfit Business School, UCD before joining Dublin Institute of Technology where she served in a number of roles including Head of School of Tourism and Hospitality Management and Head of Academic Policy and Planning.   

Sheila serves on the executive board of the Travel and Tourism Research Association and is currently Chair of TTRA Marketing Outlook Forum, a premier global tourism forecasting conference held annually in Washington. She has contributed to TTRA both within Europe and internationally for more than two decades and has served as president and chair of TTRA at both levels. Her work with TTRA aims to bring a sustainable business approach to the operation of the organisation and to ensure that the European chapter is well represented at board at international. The Marketing Outlook Forum event has contributed significantly to the ongoing sustainability of TTRA and continues to grow and thrive. 

She has an international profile in sustainable tourism having developed the European recognized ACHIEV Model for Sustainable Tourism Planning - an exemplar of Best Practice using indicators for sustainable tourism planning. 

She has served as a Member of the Executive and Council of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation. 

Prof. Anne Looney

Prof. Anne Looney

Executive Dean | Dublin City University Institute of Education

Anne Looney is the Executive Dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education, Ireland’s largest faculty of education. She also leads DCU’s engagement with the Further Education and Training Sector. From 2001 until 2016 she was the CEO of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the agency responsible for curriculum and assessment for early years, primary and post-primary education in Ireland. She also held the position of Interim CEO at the Higher Education Authority until March 2017.

Her current research interests include assessment policy and practice, curriculum, teacher   professional standards for teachers and teaching. She has also published on religious, moral and civic education, and education policy. She chaired the task force on gender-based violence in higher education institutions in Ireland. She has conducted reviews for the OECD on school quality and assessment systems.

She is a member of the boards of Early Childhood Ireland, and the Ark Cultural Centre for Children and the President of the International Professional Development Association. In 2020 she became the first woman to be appointed to the management committee of the GAA.

She tweets at @annelooney

Desmond Clifford

Desmond Clifford

Director | Office of the First Minister of Wales

Desmond Clifford is currently the Director of the Office of the First Minister. His responsibilities include the Office of the First Minister, Cabinet Division and Cabinet Office Des was previously Director General for Brexit,  Head of the Welsh Government’s EU Office in Brussels, Principal Private Secretary for the First Minister and Head of News. 

Sorcha Eastwood MLA

Sorcha Eastwood MLA

Alliance Party MLA for Lagan Valley

Sorcha was elected to the NI Assembly in May 2022 to represent the Lagan Valley constituency and is the Party’s Brexit Spox.
Prior to that, she was elected to Lisburn Castlereagh City Council in 2019 and had been the Alliance Party’s Brexit Adviser since 2017, playing a key role in shaping the Party’s Brexit policy and position. She has also co-written a number of articles on Brexit with the Party’s Deputy Leader, Dr Stephen Farry MP, for the Financial Times, The Times, the UK in a Changing Europe and many more.
More recently, she has given evidence to the House of Lords Protocol Committee and the Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement as well as representing the Party at High Level meetings with the EU and UK and Irish Governments. She also has a keen interest in supporting more women and young people into politics as well as addressing wider inequalities in our society and is passionate about Apprenticeships and different pathways to training and employment.
Before entering politics, Sorcha came from a business and management background, specialising in HR and Employment related matters in both the public and private sector, having worked in senior roles and in a wide range of sectors from retail to manufacturing to health.
Lauren Kerr

Lauren Kerr

Ulster Unionist Party

Lauren has worked in the Ulster Unionist Party policy unit since 2011.  She focuses on the policy areas of governance, Brexit/NI Protocol, and human rights. She has been part of the UUP negotiating team in talks processes including Haass/O’Sullivan, Stormont House and New Decade, New Approach.  Most recently she contested the East Belfast constituency in the 2022 Assembly election.   

Jack O'Connor

Jack O'Connor

Vice-President | Workers Group, EESC & Chairperson | EESC EU-UK Follow Up Committee

Along with Patricia McKeown, (Unison), he is of the two Workers Side members of the Irish Delegation on the European Economic and Social Committee, (EESC). 

Currently a Vice-President of the Workers Group and Chairperson of the EESC EU-UK Follow Up Cttee. 

President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions( 2009-2011). 

General President of Siptu,(2003 – 2018), which is the largest Trade Union on the Island and which organises in both jurisdictions. 

Member of the Executive of the European Trade Union Confederation,(2015 -2019). 

Chairperson of the Labour Party, (2017 -2021)

Conor Creaney

Conor Creaney

Casework Manager | Charity Commission of Northern Ireland

Conor is Casework Manager at the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. He manages the team which handles charity registration, legal consents (e.g. amending charity governing documents or approving transactions), charity mergers and closures , and guidance to trustees and the public 

Conor works closely with the Charity Commissioners and assist them in their decision-making. Conor is a graduate of Law and have worked in various legal and governance roles across social housing, community advice and public transport 

Madeleine Delaney

Madeleine Delaney

Director of Legal Affairs & Registration | Charities Regulator

Madeleine joined the Charities Regulator in March 2021 as Director of Legal Affairs & Registration. She has responsibility for the Registration function, the Charity Services function and for the provision of legal advice and assistance across the organisation. Madeleine is a practicing solicitor and worked for a number of years in private practice before joining the public sector. She worked with the Pensions Authority in a legal and compliance role, and more recently she was Head of Legal at the Office of the Ombudsman, (including the Office of the Information Commissioner, and the Standards in Public Office Commission). Madeleine holds an LLB and LLM, postgraduate diplomas in Regulatory Management and in Public Management and has a Masters in Leadership and Strategy. 

Annmarie O'Kane

Annmarie O'Kane

Information Manager | Border People

As Information Manager for the Centre for Cross Border Studies, Annmarie manages the Border People project which provides online cross-border information for people living in Ireland and Northern Ireland, especially those living in the border region.  The project also fosters cooperation, and knowledge sharing between citizens advice and information providing organisations in both jurisdictions.

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