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10 May 2023 - Seminar 2 - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and Rights

Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings

“The Belfast Good Friday Agreement and Transformative Change: Promise, Power and Solidarity” - Professor Rory O’Connell (Ulster University), Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Queen’s University Belfast and University of Minnesota) and Dr Lina Malagón (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)

In 2023, the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement marks its 25th anniversary. For many the Agreement projects a global image of a successfully concluded end to a conflict. However, key aspects of the Agreement remain under-enforced or simply undelivered, in particular, those provisions related to significant and wide-ranging guarantees addressing human rights and equality of opportunity. As a result, socio-economic and cultural deficits persist, undermining the capacity to achieve a “positive peace”. In this presentation, we consider what transformative potential the Agreement had, and to what extent it has been transformative? What has stymied transformation? Where are levers to support transformative change?

The presentation draws on a paper forthcoming in the Israel Law Review. The research for that paper was supported by the Research Hub on Gender, Justice and Security led by London School of Economics, which is funded by the United Kingdom Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund. Professor Rory O’Connell will present the paper on behalf of his colleagues.

“A Way Forward for a Consensus Approach on Human Rights in Northern Ireland” - Professor Brice Dickson, Queen’s University Belfast

This presentation considers key reasons for the current lack of consensus on how best to protect human rights in Northern Ireland. It draws on academic study of Northern Ireland’s experience over the last 25 years since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, as well as lessons learned from other jurisdictions. Examining a way forward, it considers whether the lack of consensus arises from a failure of imagination and flexibility?; whether a programme of constructive engagement, with less suspicion and division, could better enable all and improve the lives of a lot of people living in Northern Ireland?; and, whether such a programme could help to fulfil human rights obligations enshrined in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement?