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Seminar Series

The Assembly's Research and Information Services (RaISe) delivered a seminar series reflecting on the 25th anniversary of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. Academic presenters drew on their areas of study, while reflecting on the Agreement in relation to a number of key themes.

Download the full seminar programme

Seminars were held on specified Wednesdays from the end of April through June 2023, in the Senate Chamber of Parliament Buildings

The series was launched by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, on Wednesday, April 26th, 2023.

In this series, we invited esteemed academics to share their insights on various topics, including power-sharing, the economy, reconciliation, rights, and gender. After each presentation, there was an open discussion where attendees were invited to share their thoughts and ask questions.

Seminar Programme

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Seminar 1 - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and Power Sharing

Series Launch & Seminar 1 - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and Power-sharing

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly launched the “Reflections on the Belfast/Good Friday Seminar Series” on Wednesday, 26 April 2023, in the Senate Chamber of Parliament Buildings.  Immediately following was the first seminar in the Series; when invited academics drew on their areas of study, while reflecting on the Agreement and power-sharing (see below).  The academics’ presentations were followed by group discussion and refreshments. Both the launch and seminar 1 were open to all to attend.

What the Northern Ireland public thinks about power-sharing under current devolution arrangements” - Professor John Garry, Queen’s University Belfast

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

A quarter of a century after the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, debates over power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland continue. This presentation briefly describes the current power-sharing arrangements; and then addresses public attitudes to those arrangements, highlighting key findings arising from survey data collected directly after the May 2022 Assembly Election. It examines: Was the public strongly in favour of existing power-sharing arrangements; or, was there support for reforming the arrangements? Also, how did views vary by community background; and, what were the views of those who did not fit neatly into a “unionist” or a “nationalist” category, such as those who identified as “Northern Irish”?


A deliberative forum on possible reforms to power-sharing” - Dr Sean Haughey, University of Liverpool and Dr Jamie Pow, Queen’s University Belfast

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

Twenty-five years after the signing of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, debate emerges about the future of the power-sharing institutions established under the Agreement. This presentation reports on the findings of a small-scale citizens' assembly – a deliberative forum – which brought together a broadly representative sample of people from across Northern Ireland, to ascertain citizens' views on: maintaining the current power-sharing system; replacing the present system with a government formation system based purely on negotiation between political parties; or, replacing the current system with a government formation system based on both negotiation and cross-community inclusion. The findings assist in better understanding public attitudes towards the status quo and potential alternative government formation models. Importantly, they shed light on the reasons behind these attitudes and the process by which any potential reform(s) could come about. 


Wednesday, 10 May 2023

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

 “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)

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

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


Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

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?

Podcast Series - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement

The podcast series is another way for you to listen to the presentations that reflect on the Agreement. The presenters delve into the Agreement's significance, shedding light on key themes that have shaped our society.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023

Seminar 3 - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and  The Economy

1.50pm “A 1998 Analysis for the Assembly’s Economic Agenda: looking back, with a view to the future”– Senior Economist Esmond Birnie, Ulster University

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

This presentation provides a retrospective assessment of an article published in 1998, which outlined a potential economic agenda for the then new Northern Ireland Assembly (Esmond Birnie and David Hitchens, “An economic agenda for the Northern Ireland Assembly”, Regional Studies, vol. 32, no. 8, pp. 769-87). From a present day perspective, it examines key issues, including: was peace a sufficient condition for economic upsurge? And, how far was there a toxic trade-off with respect to environmental policy? As well as considering planning policy and competitiveness policy? And looking ahead, it concludes with some “forecasting” for the next 25 years.

2:10pm “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement at 25: has there been a peace dividend for the economy in Northern Ireland?” - Dr Graham Brownlow, Queen’s University Belfast

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement ended a three decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland. This presentation examines how peace has brought some economic improvements, including lower unemployment, higher wages for low earners and new industries arriving. But it also highlights how progress in other areas – particularly productivity – has been limited. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2023

Seminar 4 - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and Gender

1.50pm “Gender Equality post the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement: the journey so far and ways forward" - Professor Ann Marie Gray, Ulster University

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement provided some optimism for the prospect of greater gender equality in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition had ensured that the Agreement included a list of rights, including a right to equal opportunity and “the right of women to full and equal political participation” in particular. Potential for transforming gender relations also was enshrined in Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, a progressive and far-reaching equality duty; codified to help deliver equality for women and other protected sectoral groups. This presentation examines social and public policy priorities and outcomes, to reflect on the state of gender equality in Northern Ireland 25 years after the signing of the Agreement. It considers: how is the concept of equality understood and operationalised in policy making?; where has there been progress and what factors have inhibited progress towards gender equality?; and, what needs to happen to secure a more gender equal society in future? 

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

The second presentation due for this session:

“Gender, Discretion and Decision-making in Public Policy and Budgeting Post-Belfast/Good Friday Agreement“ - Dr Michelle Rouse, Ulster University

was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Wednesday, 14 June 2023

Seminar 5 - Reflections on Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and Reconciliation

1.30pm Attendee Registration

1.45pm Welcome and Housekeeping – Michael Potter, RaISe

1.50pm “Dealing with the Legacy of the Past: A Critical Examination of the Role of Oral History and Memorialisation in Advancing Reconciliation” - Dr Anna Bryson, Queen’s University Belfast 

Since the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, a number of significant initiatives have sought to facilitate “uncomfortable conversations” about the past and address the rights and needs of victims. This presentation examines those efforts in light of the relevant academic literature and international best practice. In particular, it critically examines the role of oral history and memorialisation in advancing reconciliation and peace.

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

2.10pm “The Role of Information Recovery and Accountability in Advancing Reconciliation – Professor Louise Mallinder, Queen’s University Belfast

The parties to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 1998 expressly recognised the need to acknowledge and address the harms experienced by victims; stating it “…was a necessary element of reconciliation…”. While the Agreement itself only sparsely addressed how that should be done, the then Northern Ireland Victims Commissioner was tasked to develop more detailed reconciliation proposals in parallel to the ongoing political negotiations; ultimately resulting in the publication of his 1999 report. Since then, numerous official and civil society initiatives have explored how to advance reconciliation within Northern Ireland through information recovery and accountability; and have provided recommendations. This presentation draws on the Agreement and the work of official and civil society initiatives, together with academic literature and international best practice, to consider what they all may offer to advance reconciliation relating to information recovery and accountability in Northern Ireland.

Watch the video and access the presentation and briefing paper.

Useful information for Visitors to Parliament Buildings

Public Tours

During April tours will run at 11.00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm and 2.00pm Monday through Friday (excluding Public and Bank holidays).

Book your tickets using this link.

Planning your visit

Directions, public transport options, and car parking information to help plan your
visit to Parliament Buildings.

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Disability Access

Wheelchair access to Parliament Buildings is via ramps at the front, east and west entrances. Parking for blue badge holders is available in the upper car park.

Please phone 028 9052 1900 to ensure availability before your visit.