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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 will consider 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 keynote addresses there will be three panel discussions focusing on cross-border cooperation, mobility and relations respectively. The opening day will also see 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) will consist 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 insurance and charitable status. It is 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.


The Conference Keynote speakers 

  • 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.
  • Mobility featuring Owen Reidy, Sam Lowe and Dr Sheila Flanagan.
  • Relations – featuring Jack O’Connor and others.

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

Conference speakers

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 

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

Director of Trade | 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. 

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)

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