On 13th April 2021, Forward Thinking facilitated a panel discussion with Rev Dr Gary Mason and Dr David Mitchell in response to recent events in Northern Ireland, where tensions have escalated. The Good Friday/ Belfast Agreement ended violence and assured peace in Northern Ireland for 23 years; however, recent demonstrations and sporadic violence have highlighted how delicately peace is balanced.

During the conversation, our panelists discussed the implications that Brexit, the 2020 Northern Ireland Protocol, and the Irish Sea Border have had on the fragile peace process. Participants voiced their concerns about unfolding events, underlining the importance of politicians in both the UK and EU engaging and being informed about the unfolding socio-political changes in Northern Ireland.

Biography of Rev Dr Gary Mason: Gary founded Rethinking Conflict after thirty years of on-the-ground peacebuilding in a conflicted society in Northern Ireland. Gary delivers workshops, seminars, and lectures in the areas of social justice, conflict transformation, peacebuilding, reconciliation, racism and sectarianism, community transformation, and addressing the role of religion in conflict. He negotiated with both the Irish Republican Army on the Republican side, and loyalist paramilitaries on the Unionist side. He operated as an influencer to move these people towards political dialogue and political inclusion.

Biography of David Mitchell: David is an Assistant Professor at the School of Religion, Trinity College Dublin. His main research interest is in peacebuilding and the politics of peace processes, with a specialism in Northern Ireland. He has published research in leading international journals on several dimensions of the Northern Ireland transition including party politics, language, sport, mediation, and religion. He is regularly consulted by the international media on developments in Northern Ireland and speaks frequently to international groups of policy makers and civil society organizations on peace-making in Ireland.