Boots on the ground

Internationally known peacemaker Gary Mason visits South Carolina to discuss Brexit implications

On Tuesday (March 12) and Wednesday (March 13), members of the British parliament held two historic Brexit votes to determine the future of the United Kingdom and the European union. Next week, the University of South Carolina will hear from a man whose life’s work may be upended by those decisions.

The Rev. Gary Mason is a Methodist minister and internationally known peacemaker who has worked on reconciliation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for more than 20 years.

He is the founder of Rethinking Conflict, a UK-based nonprofit social enterprise working in the field of conflict transformation, peace-building and reconciliation.

He was involved in the Belfast Agreement — what’s now known as the Good Friday agreement — between the British and Irish governments in 1998. The agreement sought to build relationships within Northern Ireland; between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; and between Britain and Ireland. Part of this agreement involved removing the physical barrier between the two countries.

“The UK leaving the European Union poses major problems to maintaining the peace integral to the relations between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” says Robert Cox, director of the Walker Institute of International and Area Studies. Cox says if the UK leaves the European Union without a formal agreement, the physical Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border would likely have to be re-established.

Mason will present his talk, “Maintaining peace in Northern Ireland: Brexit and the Good Friday agreement,” at 3:30 p.m. on March 22 in Gambrell Hall, Room 151. The talk is free and open to the public. He will explain the reconciliation process that has been ongoing since the agreement, as well as his perspective on what might happen post-Brexit.

“I’m excited to have attendees hear from someone who is so close to such a monumental decision — one that is so fundamental to upholding the postwar world order,” said Cox.

The talk is sponsored by the Walker Institute and the College of Arts and Sciences’ political science department.

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