Helen Johnston steps down as Chair of the Centre for Cross Border Studies
Posted On: 13 Dec 2021
After ten years Helen Johnston is stepping down as chairperson of the Centre for Cross Border Studies. Over her tenure she has seen many changes in the cross border landscape with the reduction in funding sources following the economic crash in 2008, the implications of Brexit and more recently, on a positive note, the establishment of the Shared Island Unit in the Department of the Taoiseach. Helen noted the continued financial support of the Irish government during her tenure.
“The Centre for Cross Border Studies continues to make a huge contribution to understanding those issues that have real life impact on ordinary people either side of the border. I am delighted to have contributed to that work over the last ten years especially in the current challenging circumstances.
“Undoubtedly, one example of that work, the Annual CCBS Conference, brought into the room, and more recently on-line, people from all walks of life concerned to discuss and debate all things cross-border. It was, and continues to be, a stimulating and informative environment for those keen to improve relationships within and between these islands, north-south and east-west. The annual Journal, and links with other cross border bodies across Europe, also help to provide an important context for cross border work on the island.
“I want to thank all of the board members for their support over the last ten years, including Ann McGeeney and Michael Curran who unfortunately passed away during their terms of service.
“Enormous contributions have been made by the fantastic staff including the current director Anthony Soares and previous directors, Andy Pollak and Ruth Taillon. The Border People Manager, Annmarie O’Kane, SCoTENS and Universities Ireland Administrator, Tricia Kelly, and Board Secretary Margaret Connolly have been so instrumental to the success of the Centre.
“Importantly I want to thank all of the funders that have made such a major contribution to our work and its impact on people.”
The Centre’s current Director, Anthony Soares, said “Our organisation owes a huge debt of gratitude to Helen, who has made such a significant contribution to the direction of our work. She has been a real champion in our mission to support cross-border cooperation, and to maintain and strengthen relations within and across these islands and beyond, even as the context for this has become more challenging”.
Peter Osborne, formerly chairperson of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland, takes over from Helen as chair of the Centre at its Board meeting on 13th December 2021.
He said: “Helen is a hard act to follow. There are big shoes to fill but the Board and staff continue to be fully committed to improving and sustaining relationships on these islands, North and South as well as East-West, whatever the circumstances and whatever the challenges.”
The Centre for Cross Border Studies was established in 1999 on foot of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement. Helen is the 2nd chairperson, having followed business man Chris Gibson, who held the chair for the initial 12 years. The Centre is supported by a Board comprising nominees from the parent organisations, Queen’s University Belfast and Dublin City University, plus a number of independents.