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The Belfast Agreement and Brexit – 28 Oct

28th October 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm


As we approach yet another Brexit deadline (31 October) the Society has banded-together with the Irish Pages journal to reflect on the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and to consider possible futures for the union, Anglo-Irish relations, power sharing and the border. The current special issue of Irish Pages is given over to reflections on the agreement. The essays and poetry therein record not just relief that peace was achieved in Northern Ireland but anger at the compromises of the agreement and frustration at the lack of representation throughout the two years since the breakdown of power sharing: the devolved executive and assembly which have powers over the region collapsed in January 2017. The region currently holds the world record for the longest period without a sitting government, which it passed after 589 days.

The UK’s future in the EU remains uncertain, the referendum result and ongoing political turmoil leaves the country in a febrile atmosphere. Before some definitive point is reached we are inviting a range of voices (political, poetic, academic) to consider the probity of past choices, the problems caused by the current vacuum and what comes next. The event will be followed by a sale and signing of the Irish Pages journal.

In diametric opposition to The Agreement, like (dog-) whistling in the dark, the Brexit vote preceded (incredibly now) its assumed unknown text. It has taken most of three years to come up with even the first stage of this massive modern codex – with many more scrolls and codicils to come, if in fact Brexit does materialize.Chris Agee, editor of Irish Pages

Since the Good Friday Agreement had concluded without any discussion on what constituted the seeds of the conflict, it was unsurprising that the legacy of the past turned up as a troubling spectre over its future.Monica McWilliams, Making and implementing the Agreement in Irish Pages

Speaker: Chris Agee
Chris Agee

A poet, essayist and photographer, Chris Agee is the Editor of Irish Pages. His third collection of poems, Next to Nothing (Salt, 2008), was shortlisted in Britain for the 2009 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. He recently edited Balkan Essays (The Irish Pages Press, 2016), the sixth volume of Hubert Butler’s essays. His fourth collection of poems, Blue Sandbar Moon (The Irish Pages Press) appeared in 2018. He lives in Belfast, and divides his time between Ireland, Scotland and Croatia.


Speaker: Jean Bleakney
Jean Bleakney

Jean Bleakney was born in Newry where her father was a Border Customs Officer. She studied Biochemistry at Queen’s University Belfast and has worked in medical research and horticulture. Her first three collections were published by Lagan Press. Here Selected Poems were issued by Templar Poetry in 2016 to coincide with the appearance of her work on the GCE Advanced Level syllabus in Northern Ireland. Her most recent collection is No Remedy (2017), also published by Templar Poetry


Speaker: Moya Cannon
Moya Cannon

Moya Cannon was born in Dunfanaghy, Co Donegal and now lives in Dublin. She holds degrees in History and Politics and in International Relations from, respectively, University College, Dublin and . Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. She is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Keats Lives (Carcanet, 2015). A sixth collection from Carcanet Press is forthcoming in 2019. She is a member of Aosdána.



Speaker: Professor Roy Foster
Roy Foster Roy Foster recently retired as Carroll Professor of Irish history at Oxford, he is a fellow of Hertford College. He has written widely on Irish history, society and politics in the modern period, as well as on Victorian high politics and culture. Foster produced a widely acclaimed biography of William Butler Yeats which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In Words Alone: Yeats and his inheritances (2011), he presents a re-reading of Irish literary history throughout the nineteenth century and places Yeats and his inspirations in apposition to a much wider range of literary and political precursors than is usually the case. His most recent book is Vivid Faces: the revolutionary generation in Ireland 1890-1914.


Speaker: Professor Ronan McCrea
Ronan McCrea

A native of Dublin, Ronan McCrea is Professor of Constitutional and European Law at University College London. He is also a member of the Bar of Ireland and the Bar of England and Wales. He was previously a ‘référendaire’ (judicial clerk) at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and was for ten years a visiting professor at the Central European University in Budapest. In addition to his academic work he practices law at 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers in London and comments frequently on legal matters and EU affairs for RTÉ, BBC, Sky News and in publications such as The Irish Times, The Irish Independent and The Financial Times.


Speaker: Sir Richard Needham
Sir Richard Needham

Sir Richard Needham, 6th Earl of Kilmorey, Kt PC was a Member of Parliament from 1979 to 1997, he served as Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 1985 and 1992 and as Minister of State for Trade between 1992 and 1995. He served under Thatcher and later John Major as a Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 1985 and 1992 and under Major as Minister of State for Trade between 1992 and 1995, and was instrumental in transforming Northern Ireland’s economic base and the UK’s export strategy under Michael Heseltine. He was the longest serving British government Northern Ireland minister. Needham’s book Honourable Member and Battling for Peace: Northern Ireland’s Longest-Serving British Minister (1999); is an account of his years in Northern Ireland and his contribution to peace. Needham holds an honorary degree of Doctor of laws from the University of Ulster. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1994 and knighted in 1997.



28th October 2019
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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Irish Literary Society
Irish Pages


The Bloomsbury Hotel
The Bloomsbury Hotel, 16-22 Great Russell Street
London, WC1B 3NN United Kingdom
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