Peace in Northern Ireland and Brexit

“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades, it needs support and nurturing” says Dr. Soares

News / 28.5.18

Deputy Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS), Dr Anthony Soares, believes that “the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which brought an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland, should be the framework for Brexit negotiations.” According to him, “the Good Friday agreement is much more than its clauses on Northern Ireland. It has 3 strands and the third one works out a framework for relations between Ireland, Great Britain and beyond that into Europe. Anything that interrupts the flow of people, goods, ideas, and the ability to cooperate and move between those islands and beyond would undermine the spirit of the Good Friday agreement.”

He also warns that the continuity of the Good Friday Agreement institutions is not enough. Institutions like the Northern Ireland Assembly or the North-South Ministerial Council or the British-Irish Council, which brings together the governments of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, on their own have no use unless the spirit of the agreement is maintained beyond Brexit.

“Placing infrastructure at the border, what we call a ‘hard border’, with customs and checks, would make those posts a target for paramilitary attacks, which would mean returning to a situation of securitization of the border. We have come a long long way since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement with relative peace in Northern Ireland. We don’t want to return to a situation of conflict, because of Brexit and border securitization. Anything that disturbs the fragile situation would be very dangerous and may have ripple effects in divided communities, such as Belfast where you have peace walls dividing Protestant and Catholic communities. This is something we would not want to see,” he adds. “Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades. It’s a continual process that needs support and nurturing.”

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Dr Anthony Soares is the Deputy Director at the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS), leading the centre’s research and policy team. He delivered the keynote speech at the Coppieters Dinner Debate, which took place during the 12th General Assembly of the Coppieters Foundation in Landshut (Bavaria), which took place between April 13th-14th, 2018.

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This event is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conference or the opinions of the speakers.

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