CCBS Year in Review 2022
Posted On: 19 Dec 2022
East-West North-South Northern Ireland
The New Year kicked off with a continuation of the important work of monitoring cooperation across these islands. In 2021, CCBS began Quarterly Surveys on the Conditions for North-South and East-West Cooperation to monitor the state of cooperation and relations. Civic society organisations and local authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland participate in this important quarterly survey series and the Centre uses the findings to support efforts to engage with relevant policy and decision-makers in order to maintain the necessary conditions for North-South cooperation and to safeguard East-West relations. January saw the release of the briefing paper presenting the results of the 4th Quarterly Survey of North-South and East-West Cooperation.
The Ad Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation, which is convened by Dr Antony Soares, Director of The Centre for Cross Border Studies, met with European Commission officials working in the Service for the EU-UK Agreements (UKS) to raise concerns regarding the monitoring of North-South cooperation under the Protocol. They proposed a forum for engagement with civil society on issues related to the maintenance of conditions related to cooperation.
February brought about the latest bout of political instability in Northern Ireland with the collapse of the Executive as the Democratic Unionist Party resigned over the checks required by the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. Amidst this instability, the Centre for Cross Border Studies called on the Northern Ireland Executive, its constituent parties, and the UK Government to urgently seek solutions to political uncertainty currently threatening the stability of the Executive, community relations and the maintenance of conditions for invaluable cooperation within and between these islands.
The Ad Hoc group continued its call for a forum for engagement with civil society on issues related to the maintenance of conditions for North-South cooperation to be established in its meeting with the UK Co-Chair of the Specialised Committee on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. CCBS was also delighted to convene a meeting between Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and civic society groups who are engaged in cross-border collaboration.
Each month the Border People project hosts a cross-border meeting of citizens advisors and information providers. In February, group members were delighted to be joined by Úna Boyd of CAJ who presented an update on new and emerging free movement issues relevant to people living, working and travelling between the two jurisdictions. As always, the meeting generated significant cross-border discussion and shared learning.
March saw the Centre host a visit from guests involved in the FRONTEM project, which is a Jean Monnet network bringing together three Centres of Excellence and seven Jean Monnet Chairs from both Europe and Canada (including CCBS), and its focus is on border regions. The visit was an opportunity for our guests to learn more about life at the border which has been front and centre in the Brexit negotiations. The first day involved a research seminar held at Queen’s University Belfast, before a second day on the road in the border region visiting the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh for a meeting with key stakeholders, a trip to Creative Spark in Dundalk to meet representatives of civic society organisations and a stop at Narrow Water to look across the border.
Our Director, Dr Anthony Soares, also participated in another study visit, this time focused on learning about remote working hubs and remote working policy in rural Ireland. This was part of our work in collaboration with the Rural Community Network.
With St Patrick’s Day celebrations in full swing, both on the island of Ireland and amongst the diaspora, CCBS joined with thirteen other civic society and human rights organisations to call on the US Government to honour its history as a past guarantor of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
The month of April was dominated by the campaigning ahead of the Assembly Elections on 5 May. CCBS called on all parties and those standing in the election to recommit and put into action principles that have underpinned the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. In all its engagements with those in or seeking public office, the Centre always stresses the importance of partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between these islands.
The 24th Anniversary of the Agreement saw The Detail publish a range of articles following an investigation into daily cross-border activity on the island of Ireland. The Centre was featured in stories about cross-border workers and the Ulster Canal.
The Chair of the CCBS Board, Peter Osborne, took part in a panel discussion in an event organised as part of the Shared Island Initiative entitled ‘A North-South comparison of education and training systems: lessons for policy’. Peter spoke about SCoTENS being highlighted as an example of good practice by stakeholders interviewed in the report. He also discussed the importance of tackling education inequality and the importance of giving civil society a role in the process.
May was an incredibly busy month beginning with the Assembly Elections which saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party. The elections did not resolve the impasse and, not only was an Executive not formed, the new Assembly was unable to elect a speaker meaning no business could take place – a situation which, of course, remains to this day. The UK Government responded by announcing legislation to unilaterally override parts of the Protocol. CCBS issued a statement to give its view on the discussions that were taking place.
Aside from the continuing political turmoil, the Centre released some important research in May. Accelerating Growth: Towards an all-island perspective on regional development was written by Niall O’Donnellan and Brendan McCormack and identifies the importance of developing a strong focus on the economy of the Border region as part of the Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework. The paper stresses the importance of cross-border relationships as part of the focus.
The Border People project published a taxation briefing paper that outlines the challenges encountered by cross-border workers on the island of Ireland. The practical scenarios and calculations are proving popular with workers, as they unravel the complexities of cross-border employment. The paper and others are available for download.
A report on the findings of the four Quarterly Surveys on the conditions for North-South and East-West cooperation of 2021 was published to provide an overview of the first year of the surveys, alongside the briefing paper with the results of the 5th Quarterly Survey which was the first of 2022.
CCBS joined forces with the Rural Community Network to host an event focused on rural remote working in Northern Ireland. The event was a seminar and workshop for rural community development practitioners and key stakeholders held at The Junction, Dungannon. It was a fantastic event involving learning from policy and practice in the Republic of Ireland, a presentation by Dr Anthony Soares, Director of CCBS, on his comparative analysis of rural remote working north and south and a discussion by the practitioners in attendance.
Discussions on the impact of the Protocol continued and the House of Lords European Affairs Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland published the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ submission as part of its follow up inquiry into the impact of the Protocol. The Centre’s submission focused on insights gained through our Quarterly Surveys on the conditions for North-South and East-West cooperation and from our discussions as convenor of the Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation.
The 7th Annual Sir George Quigley Memorial lecture was held on Monday 4th July, as we gathered in person for the lecture for the first time since the pandemic at TU Dublin. The lecture entitled Gender Budgeting – at a crossroads between gender equality policy and public financial management? was delivered by Prof. Ann Marie Gray of Ulster University. We were delighted that Ann Marie could share her wealth of experience with us and present the opportunities for policy learning.
July also saw the publication of the findings of the 6th Quarterly Survey of North-South and East-West Cooperation. Ongoing monitoring of the conditions for positive cooperations and relations are especially important given the political developments of the first half of the year.
In August, CCBS was delighted to welcome two more supporters of the New Common Charter for Cooperation Within and Between these Islands. The National Youth Council of Ireland and Women’s Collective Ireland became supporters in August. It was another impressive year of growth in the number of supporters, with 10 organisations signing up to the Charter. The Charter is essentially a set of agreed principles for civic society organisations participating in North-South and East-West cooperation which aims to empower these organisations to be drivers of this cooperation. Over the summer, as part of the ongoing process of updating the Charter’s principles and hearing from supporter organisations about realities on the ground, the Centre convened three sector specific meetings to hear from youth groups, rural and community development groups, and rights and advice groups about new issues for inclusion in the Charter. You can find out more about the Charter, how to become a supporter and which organisations already support it here.
September brought about one of the pinnacles of the Centre for Cross Border Studies’ year, the 23rd Annual Conference. This year’s theme was ‘Commitment, resilience and perseverance: New challenges and approaches to cross-border cooperation, mobility and relations’ and we were honoured to be join by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin as our Conference Keynote Speaker, alongside Bernadette McAliskey, CEO of the South Tyrone Empowerment Programme, and Paul Johnston, British Ambassador to Ireland, as Keynote Speakers. Panel discussions on cooperation, cross-border mobility and relations featured a range of speakers who generously shared a great deal of expertise on these issues. It was the first Conference held in person after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic and it was a real pleasure to see the important conversations that were happening during the course of the two days. You can catch up on all the first day’s sessions here.
The Conference also saw the launch of the 17th Volume of The Journal of Cross Border Studies in Ireland. Covering the same theme as the conference, it features fascinating articles covering cooperation, mobility and relations. The contributions offer a deep dive into many of the issues discussed at the Conference and are a valuable resource for anyone interested in finding ways to continue to cooperate and trade within and across these islands, and to ensure citizens can carry on their cross‐border lives.
Our Director, Dr Anthony Soares, was also named a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences which recognises highly accomplished individuals recognised for excellence in their fields and their wider contributions to the social sciences for public benefit. Congratulations Anthony!
We were back at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk for the second month in a row for the 20th Annual SCoTENS Conference. This year’s theme was Reflecting, Reconnecting and Re-Engaging with the Core Purpose(s) of Education. Since our last face-to-face conference in 2019, the world has experienced unprecedented challenges, not only as a result of the global pandemic but, more recently, in the context of the war in Ukraine. On the island of Ireland, diversity and inclusion remain significant challenges and this conference explored the links between education, schooling and societal wellbeing. It afforded delegates and speakers a timely opportunity to pause and reflect, reconnect with each other, and re-engage with the core purposes of education. The Centre provides secretariat services for this important cross-border network.
CCBS were pleased to be asked to highlight the value of the New Common Charter project as part of the launch of the iCommunity report on 3 October in Dublin. iCommunity is a collaborative all-island project run by The Wheel and NICVA, which are both supporters of the Charter. The project supports non-profits in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to discover and discuss benefits of collaboration, and as such, is a prime example of the Charter’s principles at work.
CCBS was delighted to welcome a delegation from the Cyprus Dialogue Forum as part of their study visit to the region with representatives from Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas. At the meeting Anthony outlined the work of CCBS emphasising how (all three strands of) the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement shape its priorities and projects. Much overlap between the jurisdictions emerged during the discussion and the delegation were keen to hear about the practical impacts of the New Common Charter and the Border People project.
In November, the Centre for Cross Border Studies welcomed Steve Baker, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, to our office in Armagh. The Minister met with CCBS team and members of the Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation. Discussions focused on North-South and East-West cooperation, cross-border mobility and equality issues. The Centre will continue to engage with policymakers to ensure the voices of civil society are heard.
Following the release of the Accelerating Growth Report earlier in the year, we hosted a policy seminar to discuss the findings further. The seminar saw Niall O’Donnellan presented the report’s insights, before being joined in discussions by Caitriona Mullan and John Bradley. It was a fruitful discussion which outlined an all-island perspective on the economy as being crucial to the development of the North-West region.
The autumn of Conferences came to its conclusion with the Universities Ireland History Conference entitled ‘Ireland 1922 Division, Crisis and Violence in Ireland’, held in The Great Hall at Queen’s University Belfast. On the day, as well as the keynote address there were three panel discussions focusing on Crisis, Division and Violence. The popular History Blitz made a return and it was a pleasure to welcome everyone again for a very enjoyable day.
November also saw the release of the briefing paper detailing the findings of the 7th Quarterly Survey of North-South and East-West Cooperation. The Centre would like to thank all those who have taken part in the Quarterly Surveys this year and we count on your ongoing help in 2023 to help us continue this important monitoring which informs our work to protect North-South and East-West cooperation.
In December, we were delighted to welcome two new members to the CCBS team. Eileen Weir is joining the CCBS Board and Caitriona Mullan has joined as a Senior Research Associate. Earlier in the year Olwen Dawe also became a Board Member. All three have been engaged in work to build cooperation on and between these islands; Olwen as a leading Policy Analyst and Consultant, with an established track record in developing and implementing equality, diversity and inclusion projects, Eileen in community development work in Belfast and Caitriona as a specialist and facilitator of governance and corporate leadership for collaborative and transboundary working. We’re delighted that they will be bringing their experience and insights to benefit the work of the Centre.
It’s been another incredibly busy year at the Centre for Cross Border Studies and we would like to thank all those we have worked with this past year. It is through this collaboration that we can continue to promote and support cooperation across the Ireland-Northern Ireland border as part of the ongoing peace and reconciliation process, as well as cooperation between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, Europe and beyond to increase mutual understanding, prosperity and wellbeing. We eagerly look forward to 2023!