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Gender and cross-border cooperation on the island of Ireland

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This article investigates cross-border engagement between women’s organisations and other groups working on gender equality policy. It draws on interviews with activists and practitioners and two seminars—one in Belfast and one in Dublin. It is set in the context of the post-Brexit debate on the future of the island of Ireland, and the international Women, Peace and Security agenda’s emphasis on the role of women and the centrality of a gender equality perspective to peacebuilding. Participants had very positive attitudes to cross-border collaboration, but in practice there was very little cross-border engagement between groups, and this lack of activity predates Brexit. The key barriers to cross-border work were perceived to be post-Brexit political turmoil, a lack of appropriate funding and a lack of knowledge of policy differences between the two jurisdictions. Participants had very little knowledge of the ‘other’ jurisdiction and their views were strongly shaped by historic stereotypes.


The international research on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda demonstrates that a focus on gender equality in peace processes, and in the negotiated outcomes of those processes, is an important factor in ensuring effective conflict resolution and also successful political transitions. This is based on evidence that women as community activists and civil society representatives are more willing to take part in cross-community engagement than elected representatives, and therefore they are important actors if the goal is to reach out to and engage with diverse communities that otherwise would be underrepresented in the major political and policy debates.1 In the current contexts of debates on the future of the island of Ireland, this aspect of the public engagement of women’s organisations and community groups takes on a particular relevance, not just for cross-border cooperation but also for cross-community engagement in Northern Ireland, which is also a key part of building a peaceful future for the island. The policy agenda on gender equality is an area of cross-community and cross-border cooperation that has not been sufficiently well developed. This policy area provides a point of entry for women’s organisations into wider debates on political and policy change, while providing an essential element to these debates. Crucially, it also mainstreams gender issues and gender equality into the debates on the future of the island.

Read on muse

ARINS research is published open access in Irish Studies in International Affairs and can be read on Muse.

Irish Studies in International Affairs has been published since 1979 as the leading Irish-based, peer-reviewed, journal in the discipline, with an increasing international reputation and circulation. Each issue includes contributions on a special theme and other original articles related to Ireland and international affairs broadly defined, to include issues such as development aid, conflict resolution, trade and human rights.

Pictured l-r: Eileen Connolly Tajma Kapic, John Doyle