25th March: 8.00pm

We don’t need no stinkin’ badges
A critical look at how the politics of division has stopped the development of a shared and prosperous society in Northern Ireland.

Is the success of the Good Friday Agreement all that it seems, or have we been duped into accepting a peace that amounts to little more than an absence of violent conflict?  What happened to the economic prosperity that was promised alongside lasting peace but still hasn’t been delivered? The panelists  for this discussion include Professor Peter Shirlow, Institute of Irish Studies, Liverpool University; Professor Colin Coulter, National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Commentator Sarah Creighton. Chaired by Alison Grundle.

The panel will discuss the continuing impact of the ‘stinkin badges’ of identity politics in creating the obstacles that deny society the opportunity to reconcile and prosper and discuss the ways in which these barriers can be overcome.

Spoiler alert – the solution involves YOU!

The Good Friday Agreement is hailed as one of the longest sustaining, most successful, peace accords on the planet. For many, it demonstrates best practice in conflict resolution and places Northern Ireland firmly within the box marked ‘peace: complete’. This panel discussion will discuss to what extent this view reflects reality and how the ‘stinkin badges’ of identity politics have held back community reconciliation and the development of a prosperous society here.

Some estimates claim that 2,400 people are alive today that would not be had the conflict continued – unquestionably the most important measure of success. Yet twice that number have been lost to suicide since the agreement was signed, an alarming suicide rate that disproportionately impacts men. Increasing numbers within society are rejecting sectarian labels identifying instead as, the popularly described, ‘neithers’. A term that in itself validates the existence of the binary, refusing to let go those who reject it.

Politics remains in the mire of identity politics, seemingly incapable of setting aside the identity issues that divide us, to focus on delivering on the numerous issues that unite us.

Meanwhile the 4th estate, displaying a contorted form of Stockholm syndrome, distorts every issue to perpetuate division and conflict through a sectarian lens.
As we enter the period of another Assembly election, the two largest parties aren’t focused on pandemic recovery, Brexit impacts, rises in the cost of living and failing public services. Instead, this dysfunctional democratic institution is once again threatened with collapse – this would be the 6th since its inception – and scaremongering over the entirely meaningless differences between the offices of First and Deputy First Minister.

The panel will discuss to what extent Northern Ireland has succeeded at the peace but failed at the politics and how can we move forward. The panelists include Professor Peter Shirlow, Institute of Irish Studies, Liverpool University; Professor Colin Coulter, National University of Ireland, Maynooth and Commentator Sarah Creighton. Chaired by Alison Grundle.

This event will include audience questions and contributions. This is a Civic Space event – an initiative from the Institute of Irish Studies, Liverpool University, that seeks to create the space in which fresh thinking and new ideas can be fostered outside of sectarian divide.

Professor Peter Shirlow needs no introduction to audiences here, for almost 30 years he has lectured, written, debated and commentated on Northern Ireland politics and the peace process. His recent initiative, Civic Space is an attempt to create an environment in which politics beyond identity can be discussed with a focus on developing solutions to the very real problems that continue to challenge us here.

A native of Belfast, Colin Coulter, Professor of Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth is a long-time collaborator of Professor Shirlow, having written numerous books and articles together. Their most recent publication co-authored with Niall Gilmartin and Katy Hayward, is Northern Ireland a generation after Good Friday: Lost Horizons in the ‘long peace’.

Sarah Creighton is an increasingly authoritative voice on Northern Ireland politics. She brings a pro-union voice from a fresh perspective. A trained lawyer, Sarah’s area of expertise is Housing Rights and her contribution to this panel will focus on the harsh reality of the housing crisis in Northern Ireland today and what we can do to overcome it.

Panel chair, Alison Grundle, is a co-founder of Civic Space and has collaborated with Professor Shirlow on both Brexit Papers, published by the Institute of Irish Studies, Liverpool University. Her background is in business transformation in the corporate sector. She is also a former Special Advisor.

Learn more: Civic Space – Institute of Irish Studies – University of Liverpool


Sponsored by the QUB Democracy Unit.

date & time

date & time

Friday 25th March
8.00pm (doors 7.30pm)
Duration: 1.5 hours



Studio, Crescent Arts Centre, University Rd.



Free admission

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