The 2023 edition of The Journal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland coincided with the year the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement celebrated its twenty‐fifth anniversary. There were many events marking this milestone, and the Centre for Cross Border Studies – as a child of the 1998 Agreement – did not want to let this moment pass without attempting in some small way to recognise its significance.
This year’s edition of The Journal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland focuses on what was done in the years before 1998 that would help shape the context for the Good Friday Agreement. However, it is civil society that largely takes centre‐stage here, particularly in terms of cross‐border relations that were being built up prior to the Agreement. Arguably, the role civil society played was largely sidelined during this 25th anniversary year, especially at the more high‐profile events where it was the political developments and manoeuvring that dominated. Moreover, while the conversations that took place between political leaders in London, Belfast and Dublin featured strongly, little attention was paid to the cross‐border relations that were being made and maintained by civic society organisations even during the darkest days of the conflict that the Good Friday Agreement sought to bring to a definitive end. The contributions to this year’s Journal seek to address this imbalance.
It is hoped that this edition of The Journal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland is, in some small way, able to serve as an acknowledgement of the tireless work done by civic society as well as officials and political representatives in preparing the ground for the Good Friday Agreement, and especially for what it means in terms of relations within and across these islands. Whatever political obstacles may have arisen in relation to the functioning of the institutions in Northern Ireland (which are not functioning at the time of writing), it is important to recognise that North‐South and East‐West cooperation and relations continue to be maintained. As Caitríona Mullan asserts in her article:
A rarely‐advertised fact is that while the political institutions of strand one stand still, a momentum of cross‐party consensus‐based political cooperation has continued undisrupted at the local government/regional cross‐border level since the 1990s and allowed the border region and Northern Ireland to withstand the shock and avert the worst of the potential economic and social disruption of both a global pandemic and the Brexit process.
As ever, the Centre for Cross Border Studies, in collaboration with others across these islands, will continue to work to fulfil the aspirations contained within the Good Friday Agreement.