Twenty years ago, the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement marked a formal end to the conflict in Northern Ireland. This conference will bring together architects of that peace agreement, political and community leaders, and academics to discuss current challenges that hamper the full realization of peace in Northern Ireland and possible paths forward.
The two-decade old peace agreement is often understood as perhaps the most successful of its kind in recent political history, resolving a conflict that appeared to be hopelessly intractable. Currently, the peace in Northern Ireland is challenged by divisions and setbacks that may also appear intractable. The goal of the conference is to foster open and critical discussions about what could have been done differently and what might be done now to address those divisions and rectify the setbacks. More specifically, some of the questions that may be discussed include: What factors account for the persistence of sectarianism and what might be effective in combatting it? Why are paramilitaries still influential actors in some places, years after their ceasefires? What new approaches to reconciliation should be considered? How might political institutions in Northern Ireland adopt reforms to preserve a functioning, devolved government in the future? What are possible implications or opportunities of Brexit and how might they be navigated? What lessons can Northern Ireland offer for peace and its implementation elsewhere, and vice versa? These discussions will take the form of three public panels followed by an academic seminar.