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Danny McCoy delivers the 8th Annual Sir George Quigley Memorial Lecture

Posted On: 19 Jun 2023



On Thursday 8th June, the Centre for Cross Border Studies hosted the 8th Annual Sir George Quigley Memorial Lecture at The MAC, Belfast.

Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, delivered a lecture entitled “The role of Social Dialogue in underpinning prosperity on the Island of Ireland”. 

The lecture began with a welcome from Dr Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, who thanked those in attendance for coming along. He provided a context for these Memorial Lectures, which are held in honour of Sir George Quigley, whose vision for cross-border cooperation resonates strongly with the work of the Centre for Cross Border Studies.   

Danny proceeded to deliver his lecture, which he had planned to deliver alongside Owen Reidy, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, but who was unavailable due to illness. He began by outlining the context of the all-island economy, pointing to Sir George Quigley and his prominent role in popularising the idea. Danny provided a fascinating overview of the developments in the all-island economy over the past decades and paints the picture of our current situation in 2023.  

He discussed Ibec’s ‘for Peace + Prosperity’ campaign which highlights the economic and social benefits of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and helps businesses reflect on the 25th Anniversary. He made a compelling case for the economic benefit of the Agreement for the whole island, including making the island a more stable place to invest and a more attractive place to live and work. Danny also pointed to the increased growth of all-island brands, as well as the more joined up policy and planning which has reaped rewards, especially with improved infrastructure. Despite this progress, work needs to continue to increase investment and reboot North-South cooperation to continue building prosperity across the island.  

Danny explored the model of stakeholder capitalism that has become popular in recent years, which seeks to serve the interests of all stakeholders not just shareholders. This offers more opportunities for social dialogue to bring benefits.  

Danny explained that Social Dialogue includes all types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between, or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy. He spoke his experience of as a member of the Irish Tripartite Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which is a prime example of social dialogue. It was fascinating to hear Danny explain that as well as the traditional labour market issues you would expect the Forum to discuss, there is also a focus on wider factors like housing, retirement age, pensions, and aspects of the so-called Social Wage.  

Danny believes that this social dialogue can help address some of the key economic and social challenges we face in the years ahead, ensuring the continued prosperity that all want to see. Danny argued it could be particularly helpful in bringing about ‘just transitions’ in the areas of decarbonisation, digitalisation and artificial intelligence which will be era defining issues. Indeed, these issues do not respect borders and Danny proposed that a process could be created for addressing them from the perspective of an all-island labour market. Danny questioned whether Strand Two, Section 19 of the Agreement offers the opportunity for this, especially in the absence of other institutional aspects being in place: 

“Consideration to be given to the establishment of an independent consultative forum appointed by the two Administrations representative of civil society, comprising the social partners and other members with expertise in social, cultural, economic and other issues” 

Ultimately, Danny concluded on a hopeful note that a Social Dialogue Process can underpin the prosperity of the All-Island Economy by collectively addressing the collective challenges of our generation. 

We’re very grateful for Danny sharing his wonderful insights with us and for all those who came along to take part in an enlightening discussion.  

Download Danny’s Paper

Download the lecture slides

Download Danny's PaperThe Centre for Cross Border Studies