UCD John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies 
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“The Agreement Generation: An Opportunity for Change?”

John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, UCD

17th November 2010

The theme of the conference is the opportunity for change in Northern Irish and all Island politics. The peace process, the passage of time and generations with different frames of reference, have all provided the space to reframe the political agendas and the various relationships between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In particular the conference will focus on the Agreement Generation, those who were raised with the peace process.


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The Agreement Generation, have a uniquely different perspective to the generation who went before. For the Agreement Generation, there has been constitutionalisation on the main issues of the 1998 Agreement, and the opportunity to develop previously unlikely relationships. They are the hinge between what went before, and what is coming: a generation who will be of voting age next year, but who were not born at the time of the 1993 Joint Declaration, which laid out the principles of the 1998 Agreement negotiations.  

The conference aims to incorporate the academic, cultural, policy and political perspectives on the opportunity for change. It will examine the current political situation to see if the traditional fault lines still dominate and if the patterns of conflict remain unchanged. Most importantly it aims to give a voice to the Agreement Generation. It will attempt to identify how space can be created for their perspectives, and how they can be stakeholders in the future of Northern Irish, Irish and all Island politics.


SESSION ONE The aftermath and post conflict situation in Northern Ireland

Chair: Jane Morrice, former Deputy Speaker Northern Ireland Assembly (Women’s Coalition)


  • Rebecca Bell, Platform for Change and the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust
  • Dr Laura McAttackney, post doctoral fellow with the John Hume Institute, UCD
  • John Loughran, Programme Director for Intercomm’s North Belfast Developing Leadership Initiative
  • Cllr Conor Maskey, Sinn Fein Belfast City Councillor

The peace process and the success of the 1998 Agreement sometimes cloud the fact that there is a post conflict situation in Northern Ireland. It still faces major issues that must be resolved: the political situation in Stormont, peace walls, community relations and security. This session questions the narrative of “the peace process” and argues for the normalisation of politics. It looks in detail at the most recent developments and asks what the real story on the ground is.


SESSION TWO The North/South relationship

Chair: Tim O’Connor, former Joint Secretary of the North South Ministerial Council, and former Secretary-General to the President, Mary McAleese


  • Kenny Donaldson (UUP) Community and Voluntary Sector Spokesman for the UUP and Chairman of the West Ulster Unionist Forum. Lives outside Crossmaglen, South Armagh
  • Michelle Byrne, (SDLP), ran in South Antrim 2010 elections and is an aide to Conall McDevitt, MLA for South Belfast. Previously she was the SDLP Youth PRO. 
  • Lorcan Price (FF), aide for the Fianna Fail Parliamentary Party in the Dail and Seanad Eireann. Former Member of the FF National Executive, and former chair of Ogra FF
  • John Carroll (FG), Parliamentary Assistant to Leo Varadkar TD. Formerly International Secretary and Policy Officer for Young Fine Gael
  • Richard Bullick, (DUP) Special Advisor to the First Minister Peter Robinson
  • Hazel Nolan (LAB) former International Officer for Labour Youth, and Global Progressive Youth Forum Coordinator for ECOSY (European Community Organisation of Socialist Youth)

This panel is a mixture of party political members from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. As well as being members of political parties, all have experience and knowledge of the changes in the North/South relationship in recent years: at a policy, political or personal level.  They will be discussing the current state of the North/South relationship, what should be done at a policy level, and whether the Agreement Generation is capable of stepping outside of identity politics and developing working relationships.


SESSION THREE Creating spaces: The role of culture, new media and spatial planning

Chair: Orlaith McBride, Arts Council and Director of the National Association for Youth Drama


  • Dr Catherine Morris, Cultural Coordinator for TCD and the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and curator of the Alice Milligan exhibition at NLI
  • Damian Duffy, visual artist and curator at the Void Gallery, Derry
  • Mark Nagurski, Digital Champion for the Digital Derry project and blogger
  • Dr Karen Keaveney, Lecturer in Spatial Planning at QUB

This is a reflective session on the role of culture and our lived environment, examining how they provide the frames of reference in people’s lives. It asks: is there space for those who don’t subscribe to the traditional entrenched identities, or the traditional faultlines? And how do we create the spaces to reinterpret the past, reflect the present and offer vision for the future?

By recognising the role that culture and our physical environment play we can begin to understand the different experiences that people have. It also allows us to examine how we can create spaces (cultural and physical) that allow for a more inclusive, pluralist conversation, and an opportunity for change from the politics of the past.


SESSION FOUR  The future: the economic and political implications

Chair: Andy Pollak, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies and Secretary of Universities Ireland


  • David Manning, Public Affairs Manager for SSE Renewables (Ireland)
  • Ciara Farren, Regulatory Affairs Manager for Meteor, focusing on European affairs and spectrum management
  • Dr Katy Hayward, lecturer with the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, QUB
  • Aoibhín de Búrca, ad Astra Research Scholar with the John Hume Institute, UCD

The result of a settlement and peace on the island makes it easier to attract in inward investment, in the Republic and Northern Ireland. Also economic North South cooperation has increased in recent times and has been to the mutual benefit of both jurisdictions. The business community sees the commercial benefits of being able to sell into additional markets, increase efficiencies and develop economies of scale on the same island. But currently those of the Agreement Generation, in both jurisdictions, are facing the very real challenges of the economic recession and the lack of employment opportunities. So what are the immediate impacts if the loss of social capital, and the disengagement by the Agreement Generation, continues? And what are the implications for North/South cooperation in economic and business terms?


Further information

Aoibhín de Búrca,
Ad Astra Research Scholar,
John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies,
Dublin 4.

Email: aoibhin.de-burca@ucdconnect.ie