Development & Alumni Relations Office 


23 November 2018

Queen's University Belfast in collaboration with Yale University in the US are to hold a major conference marking 20 years of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (GFA), bringing together architects of that landmark settlement, including Queen's former Chancellor, Senator George Mitchell. 

The Conference is one of two peace related events taking place on consecutive days in Connecticut, organised by Queen’s and Yale University.

On Friday 30 November, Queen's and Yale University will co-host a major conference entitled 'Twenty Years of Peace: Progress and Possibilities in Northern Ireland', which will address the complex political developments of the past twenty years in Northern Ireland, as well as current challenges and future possibilities.

The conference features key figures in the politics of Northern Ireland, including Senator George Mitchell, Chancellor of Queen’s (1999-2009); Bertie Ahern, who served as Irish Taoiseach from 1997 to 2008; General John de Chastelain, chair of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning in Northern Ireland, Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Tony Blair (1995 to 2007) and from Co-operation Ireland, Dr Christopher Moran (Chairman) and Peter Sheridan (Chief Executive).

Delegates from Northern Ireland political parties involved in the Good Friday Agreement including Peter Robinson, Monica McWilliams and Mitchel McLaughlin, along with representatives of the British, Irish, and American Governments are also expected to attend.

Introducing and chairing the opening session ‘Making Peace: Past, Present, and Future’ will be Richard English, Professor of Politics at Queen’s, where he is also a Distinguished Professorial Fellow in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, and the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation and Engagement.

Professor Kieran McEvoy, Professor of Law and Transitional Justice at the School of Law and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s, will be participating in the afternoon seminar ‘Northern Ireland and Beyond: Lessons for Peacemaking?’.

Speaking ahead of the Yale visit, Professor English, said: “Research-based discussion of major global challenges is central to the work of Queen's and the university is committed to engaging in high-level debate with major US Universities.

“These two events represent a significant contribution to that work.”

The Conference at Yale follows the Building Peace event, which attracted global media attention when Queen’s marked the anniversary of the 1998 Agreement in April and which was attended by high profile political figures including former US President, Bill Clinton.

Twenty years ago, the Good Friday Agreement marked a formal end to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The two-decade old peace agreement is often cited as the most successful of its kind in recent political history, resolving a conflict that appeared to be hopelessly intractable.  

The goal of the Yale 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.

Some of the questions expected to be addressed include:

  • What factors account for the persistence of sectarianism and what might be effective in combatting it?
  • Why paramilitaries are 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 the 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? 

Discussions will take the form of three public panels followed by an academic seminar.

The US faculty will include: Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University; Emma Sky, Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program, Yale University and Bonnie Weir, Lecturer in Political Science, Yale University.

To register attendance at ‘Twenty Years of Peace: Progress and Possibilities in Northern Ireland’ or to find out more go to

Childhood programmes and peacebuilding

On 29 November, the day before the GFA conference, another conference also co-hosted by Queen’s and Yale will take place at the university.

This event will be an open house conference, expecting over 200 delegates, and will explore the role that investment in early childhood programmes can play in contributing to peacebuilding efforts in countries impacted by conflict.

Professor Paul Connolly, Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Queen’s and Project Lead, will deliver a keynote address at the event and an interdisciplinary team of leading academics from the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) at Queen’s will also be in attendance. 

This event is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development (ECD) for Peacebuilding network, that Queen’s leads. The Group represents a strategic partnership with UNICEF and is supporting the development of ECD programmes in six low- and middle-income countries.

The Queen’s team participating in the event will have travelled directly from Bogotá where they are to co-host a public event and series of meetings with key early childhood NGOs and government advisers to explore the development of ECD programmes for peacebuilding in Colombia.

Queen’s University Belfast continues to grow its international reputation. It is now ranked in the top 200 universities in the world (QS World University Rankings 2019) and 16th in the world for international outlook (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019).

Media enquiries about both events to Communications Office, Queen’s University Belfast, tel: +44 (0)28 9097 3091.


Back to Main News









Top of Page