News & Events

News and Events

Seminar 25 June 2019: A constitutional moment on the island of Ireland?

This seminar is an initial meeting to map, and to begin to address, the analytic questions with which scholars are faced in a period when Brexit has destabilised Northern Ireland, put aspects of the Good Friday Agreement into question, and reinvigorated discussion of the timing and form of a united Ireland. It forms part of the IBIS Constitutional Futures after Brexit project that addresses possible constitutional and political change in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the EU and their inter-connections. (The objectives of this wider project are set out in the attached document explaining in greater detail what the project is about.)

This day-long seminar in UCD focusses on how to address the challenges to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement posed by Brexit. It re-examines some of the basic premises, provisions and principles of that agreement, in order to explore how they may be revised or renewed.

The current situation disrupts the peace agreement and the institutions which had been intended to frame peace and stability for decades:

(i) the British role in guaranteeing the Agreement has been questioned, including within Westminster
(ii) the Irish government wish for ‘no change’ is unlikely to be fulfilled
(iii) Protestants and unionists are more internally divided than before
(iv) Nationalists are re-focussing on issues of Irish unity
(v) British-Irish relations have deteriorated and government priorities have diverged. East-West relations will undoubtedly be renewed, but a renewal of joint management of peace building in Northern Ireland is likely to be difficult.
(vi) the meaning and implications of the GFA are highly contested, and restoration of a functioning power-sharing government is uncertain despite the current talks

Recent events have brought a sort of constitutional moment on the island where – in the years after the shock of Brexit and before the politics of a border poll – it is necessary and possible to reprioritise and reframe the principles, institutions and norms which will guide politics not just in a devolved Northern Ireland but also other possible futures including a possible future united Ireland and in a range of possible UK and Irish futures in-between. In the longer term this requires much wider dialogue: this is an initial academic seminar on how that dialogue might usefully be framed. 

This invitation to attend will be followed by a more detailed programme nearer the event. Please hold the date and let us know if you can come by emailing and

The IBIS Constitutional Futures Research Programme is directed by Dr Paul Gillespie, Deputy Director of IBIS. The seminar  is being planned by a cluster of interested academics at UCD and around  IBIS, including Dr Paul Gillespie  (Deputy Director IBIS), Prof Ben Tonra (Director IBIS) and Prof Jennifer Todd MRIA.


Constitutional Futures after Brexit

UCD Institute for British-Irish Studies (IBIS) launches major new research programme on Constitutional Futures after Brexit:

Ireland is facing major political and constitutional choices over the next decade. They arise from changing relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and its consequences for the UK’s own union, and the transformation of the EU itself. Together, these changes amount to a constitutional moment for both Ireland and Northern Ireland in their most significant neighbouring relationships. During such periods, change can accumulate in multi-dimensional and often unanticipated ways, leaving major actors ill-prepared for the sudden shifts of interests, affinities and identities that together define such political transitions. The more effectively that potential changes are analysed, debated and mapped ahead of events, the better prepared political leaderships, decision-makers, interest groups and citizens will be to make informed choices and decide how these choices can be shaped and directed.

In this spirit the Institute of British-Irish Studies (IBIS) based at University College Dublin is launching a new three-year research project on Constitutional Futures after Brexit.

This new project addresses possible political and constitutional change in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the EU and their inter-connections. It thus encompasses a broader field of relationships than Brexit alone, thinking through and beyond that event and its processes to examine their wider and longer term constitutional, governmental and political implications. Working with key partners on these islands and elsewhere in Europe, the project will use innovative social science methods and theories to analyse these possible alternative futures, combining specific pieces of research within its broader research programme. It proposes extensive engagement with academics, political actors, public servants, media and citizens to develop and analyse plausible scenarios of potential change.

An ambitious outreach programme will publicise research findings and promote their associated debates and events across three core project pillars of analysis, deliberation and public policy.  Analysis refers to conceptual and evidence-based original research using a variety of social science methods carried out by trained academics and professional researchers. Deliberation is discussion and decision-making on political and policy options based on inclusive citizen-based interaction, fair and accurate information and multiple perspectives. Ireland’s experience with citizens’ assemblies on climate change options and abortion are examples of this practice. Public policy refers to political decisions about policies implemented after deliberation and involving civil servants and citizens as well as politicians.

If you would like to be kept informed of this project’s progress, its activities and outreach, simply complete your details here.

Seminar: A constitutional moment on the island of Ireland? 25 June, 2019, University College Dublin. 

Further details:

Dr Paul Gillespie, Deputy Director of IBIS and Programme Director, Tel 0868147242 email

Professor Ben Tonra, Director of IBIS, Tel 01 716 8195 email

The full outline programme can be read at this link IBIS 2019 Constitutional Futures Final




Dr Paul Gillespie named as Deputy Director of IBIS

The UCD Institute for British Irish Studies (IBIS) is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Paul Gillespie to the role of Deputy Director of IBIS. Working with the IBIS Director, Professor Ben Tonra and the Institute’s Director of Research, Professor Jennifer Todd, Dr Gillespie will be developing UCD’s research on British-Irish relations, including the peace process, governance in Northern Ireland, bilateral Irish-British relations, UK constitutional issues and devolution and Irish constitutional futures. This ambitious research programme will also be firmly situated in Ireland’s membership of the European Union and the Union’s ongoing role in fostering peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland.

Dr Gillespie currently serves as Adjunct Senior Research Fellow with the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, where he has contributed to teaching and research in British-Irish relations, European integration and Brexit. He is a columnist and leader writer with The Irish Times and has an extensive public policy profile on Irish-British relations, comparative regionalism in Europe, media studies and European foreign policy. He is co-editor of Britain and Europe: The Endgame: An Irish Perspective (Dublin IIEA 2015), is a member of the UK Study Group at the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) Dublin and is also a founding member of The Islands and Unions Network (TIUN) on constitutional futures in Ireland and Britain.

Speaking on his appointment, Professor Ben Tonra said “IBIS is delighted to welcome Paul to a leadership role within the Institute. He brings a wealth of expertise and public policy engagement to our work and will be driving a forward-looking and long-range agenda on Ireland’s evolving relationships in these islands and within Europe. I look forward to working with him in particular on an innovative analysis of Ireland’s potential constitutional futures.”

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The Dr. John Henry Whyte Trust Fund was established to honour the memory of John Henry Whyte who was Professor of Irish Politics at Queen's University Belfast and, until his untimely death in May 1990, Professor of Politics at University College Dublin. Full details of the John Whyte Trust Fund. Co-hosted by the School of Politics and International Relations and the Institute for British-Irish Studies.

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