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

Deputy Director at 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 around which the Brexit negotiation should be centred on  […] but 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 mean to undermine the spirit of the Good Friday agreement”

He also warns that Continuity of the Good Friday Agreement institutions is not enough “So for example that we still have a Northern Ireland Assembly […] or that we would still have a North-South Ministerial Council or the British-Irish Council which brings together all of the governments of the island –  Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, isle of man, channel Islands and the UK – the institutions 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 etc, 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 98 Good Friday Agreements with relative Peace in Northern Irland and 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 where there are divided communities, for example in Belfast where you have peace walls dividing Protestant and catholic communities? This is something we would not like to see” he warns. “Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades, it’s a continual process that needs support and nurturing”

Dr Anthony Soares is the Deputy Director at the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS), leading the Centre’s Research & Policy team. He gave the keynote speech at the Coppieters Dinner Debate, which took place during the 12th General Assembly of the Coppieters Foundation; Landshut (Bavaria) from April 13th to April 16th.

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