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Beyond the Border: The Good Friday Agreement and Irish Unity after Brexit


Richard Humphreys

June 2018

Beyond the Border is a vital and objective exploration of how the Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful path towards resolving Ireland’s ultimate constitutional dilemma.


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‘strives for scrupulous fairness and impartiality … a thoughtful and excellent work’
Dr Mary McAleese

The Brexit vote for UK withdrawal from the EU has put the constitutional future of Northern Ireland centre-stage once again. Beyond the Border is an authoritative, timely and up-to-date guide to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. A compelling and accessible exploration of how the Agreement can be upheld despite Brexit uncertainties, and implemented despite political deadlock, it powerfully argues for the permanence of the Agreement and its cross-community approach, even in the event of the achievement of Irish unity.

It comprehensively explains the radical implications of the principle of parity of esteem between the traditions and how the conflicting aspirations of nationalists and unionists can be accommodated. At a time of seismic constitutional transition it outlines the milestones on the pathway to a united Ireland by consent as envisaged by the Agreement.

The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by 71 per cent of voters in Northern Ireland and by 94 per cent in the rest of Ireland. Despite huge difficulties in implementation, this book contends that the Agreement remains a cornerstone of Ireland’s constitutional settlement.

Beyond the Border is a vital and objective exploration of how the Agreement provides a peaceful path towards resolving Ireland’s ultimate constitutional dilemma.

Table of Contents

Foreword ~ Mary McAleese, Former President of Ireland

  1. Architecture of the Agreement
  2. Evolution of the Agreement
  3. The Challenge of Brexit
  4. Implications of the Agreement for the Discussion of Irish Unity
  5. Bedding down the Agreement
  6. Beyond Working the Institutions
  7. Removing Obstacles to Uniting the Peoples of the Island


About the Author

Richard Humphreys is a Judge of the Irish High Court. He is a graduate of UCD and the King’s Inns and holds a PhD in Law from Trinity College Dublin. As a government adviser in 1996 he attended the launch of All-Party negotiations in Stormont that ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement. From 1997 to 2015 he was a practising barrister and in October 2015 was appointed to the High Court. He has lectured in law full-time in UCD and UCC, and part-time in TCD and NUI Galway. This is his third book. He has also authored numerous articles in academic journals and general publications.

Praise for Beyond the Border

‘timely and enlightening … an essential read’
Bertie Ahern

‘a blueprint for uniting the peoples of this island’
Elaine Byrne, columnist, Sunday Business Post

‘remarkable … a significant publication in the search to maintain peace’
Susan Denham, former Chief Justice of Ireland

‘An in-depth and substantial publication on the peace process’
Martina Fitzgerald, RTÉ Political Correspondent

‘meticulous … Both polities on the island will benefit from his insights’
Eoghan Harris, columnist, Sunday Independent

‘This study should be read in every part of Ireland … An excellent and much-needed work’
Michael McDowell SC, former Tánaiste and Attorney General of Ireland

‘a timely and important contribution to the debate on Brexit and its implications’
Harry McGee, political correspondent, The Irish Times

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