Civic Society can provide long-term solutions to the Protocol, Committee told

Engagement with civic society on the Northern Ireland Protocol will be key to finding long term solutions that work for everyone, TDs, Senators and MPs heard today.

Representatives from the Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement that such groups can play a crucial role in finding solutions, by monitoring the impact of the Protocol on cross border cooperation.

Dr Anthony Soares, Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies and Convenor of the group; Tara Farrell, CEO of Longford Women’s Link; Aoife Ní Lochlainn, Brexit Policy Officer at the Irish Environmental Network and Chris Quinn, Director of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum briefed the committee today.

They stressed that no serious monitoring of the impact of the Protocol on the conditions for cross border cooperation can take place without hearing directly from those involved in such cooperation.

Convenor of the Ad-Hoc Group for North-South and East-West Cooperation, and Director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, Dr Anthony Soares said:  “Discussions over the last four years have been mostly focused on technical issues around trade. Even though this is important, relations between people, within and across these islands cannot be largely ignored.”

“Sustainable solutions will not be found if they are sought exclusively by speaking with one particular sector, nor will they be found by looking exclusively within Northern Ireland. Civic Society must be part of the conversation.”

“Civic Society organisations have been at the forefront of supporting communities during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The same can be said in the brokerage and maintenance of a more peaceful society.”

“With the proper support, they will be invaluable partners in the task of shaping the new context we find ourselves in so that it can properly accommodate all our hopes and aspirations and maintain positive relations within and across these islands.”

Speaking on the ongoing political decisions being taken currently, Dr Anthony Soares noted:

“Decision-makers must continually recall the fundamental place of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the totality of relations it encompasses.”

“Protection of the 1998 Agreement must mean protection of all three strands, and no party should seek to protect one strand at the expense of the others.”

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