CFP Ireland : Shared Futures?

10-12 September 2015

Université Rennes 2, Brittany, France (Centre d’Etudes Irlandaises, CRBC Rennes)

This conference will consider the future to be shared by the people of the island of Ireland, both North and South, at home and abroad, including future relations with Britain, the European Union and the outlook for Ireland in an increasingly globalised and inter-dependent world.

The theme of the conference owes much to the ongoing debate within Northern Ireland, as an integral part of the conflict transformation process, on how to build a shared and better future for all citizens out of a divided and traumatic past. Some critics of the consociational model which underpinned the 1998 Good Friday Agreement have argued that, “whereas the minutiae of the governing institutions, security arrangements, and the relationships between the UK and Ireland were detailed, no such policy specifications were made for societal transformation.”1

Subsequent consultations and reports have sought to address this vacuum, following on from Harbison’s Review of Community Relations Policy in 20022. A large-scale consultation, A Shared Future on Improving Community Relations in Northern Ireland, was launched in January 2003, recognizing that “Northern Ireland remain[ed] a deeply segregated society with little indication of progress towards becoming more tolerant or inclusive”, citing segregated housing and education, violence at interfaces, high levels of racial prejudice and stating that “people’s lives continue to be shaped by community division”.

In May 2013, the First Minister and deputy First Minister affirmed their commitment to “building a united and shared society” with the unveiling of a new good relations strategy: Together: Building a United Community. The framework policy document advocates a community “strengthened by its diversity, where cultural expression is celebrated and embraced and where everyone can live, learn, work and socialize together, free from prejudice, hate and intolerance”.

In the Republic, the financial crisis has left a deep mark on both the economy and its people. The 2010 bailout of €67.5 billion granted by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has left the Republic with a staggering debt to pay, 123% of GDP. The austerity measures imposed by this bailout have done much to affect the morale of the country. Unemployment rose to over 15% in 2012 and cuts of billions of euros have been made to social welfare, public sector wages and pensions. In addition, many capital expenditure projects have been stopped. Mass Irish emigration has increased again as Irish people are forced to leave a struggling economy to start a new future in destinations such as the UK and Australia.

Ireland exited the bailout programme at the end of 2013 and has now taken control of its own affairs again. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a live televised address to the nation in December 2013 stated: “Throughout our history, the Irish people have already shown that nothing is impossible for us to achieve, when we really apply ourselves to a challenge or a cause”3.

The decade of centenaries and commemorations on both sides of the Irish Sea is providing an opportunity to reflect upon some of the challenges that Ireland has been confronted with in the past. Queen Elizabeth’s first state visit to the Republic of Ireland in June 2011 acknowledged a common but difficult history and confirmed the closeness of British-Irish relations. Likewise, during his reciprocal visit to Britain in 2014, President Higgins declared that, “such reflection offers an opportunity to craft a bright future on the extensive common ground we share and, where we differ in matters of interpretation, to have respectful empathy for each other’s perspectives” 4.

1 See James Hughes, “Is Northern Ireland a “Model” for Conflict resolution?”; LSE Workshop on State Reconstruction after Civil War?” 29 March 2011 (, (accessed 28 July 2014).
2, (accessed 28 July 2014).
3 An address by Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, (15/12/2013),, (accessed 1 July 2014).

4 (accessed 1 August 2014).