Date: 8 – 9 March 2018
Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dundalk
The 2018 Annual CCBS Conference, The Good Friday Agreement in All Its Parts: Safeguarding the totality of relationships, brought together more than 100 participants – some of whom were centrally involved in drafting and implementing the 1998 Agreement and the Devolution settlement for Northern Ireland – and many others who have since had responsibility for its implementation along with 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.
This year’s conference built upon the dialogue started with our 2016 conference, ‘Bordering Between Unions: What Does the UK Referendum on Europe Mean for Us?’ that focused on the likely economic, social and political implications of a UK withdrawal or the possible reforms leading to its continuing membership upon these islands and upon the wider future direction of Europe; and was continued at our 2017 conference, Building and maintaining relationships: within, across and beyond these islands after the Referendum.
CCBS Director, Ruth Taillon explained the thinking behind the choice of this year’s conference theme: “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 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.
Issues related to Ireland/Northern Ireland are central to the negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. 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 and their associated obligations. Worryingly, in recent weeks, there have been comments from some advocates of a ‘hard’ Brexit that question the continued relevance of the 1998 Agreement as it becomes increasingly clear that it is difficult to reconcile withdrawal from the EU Single Market and Customs Union with protecting the Agreement in all its parts.”
Our opening keynote speaker on Thursday morning was Dr Martin Mansergh, a key architect of the 1998 Agreement, addressing “Brexit: The constitutional issues for the UK, Ireland and Northern Ireland”. Mr Hugh Logue, former special advisor to OFM/DFM and a former EU Commission official opened the afternoon session on Thursday with a talk on “Cooperation under the Good Friday Agreement: past, present and future”. The pre-dinner speaker on Thursday evening was Mr Tony Connelly, Europe Editor for RTE. Our keynote speaker on Friday morning was the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, on the topic, “How do we continue to moderate each other’s views through the Brexit process?”
The Conference also featured panel discussions on “Human rights and the Good Friday Agreement”; “Devolution agreements from the Good Friday Agreement to Brexit and beyond”;
“Building and maintaining relationship” and “Safeguarding the totality of relationships”.
The Conference Programme is available here.
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