Event Speakers

Keynote Speaker

John Bruton - Taoiseach 1994 - 1997

John Bruton is a former Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), who helped transform the Irish economy into the “Celtic Tiger,” one of the fastest growing economies in the world in 1997.

He served as Taoiseach from 1994 to 1997 and as Ambassador of the European Union to the United States from 2004 to 2009 and was also deeply involved in the Northern Irish Peace Process leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

While Taoiseach, Bruton presided over a successful Irish EU Presidency in 1996 and helped finalize the Stability and Growth Pact, which governs the management of the single European currency, the Euro. John Bruton served as a leading member of the Convention that drafted the proposed European Constitution, which was signed in Rome on October 29, 2004. He strongly supported proposals to give the general public a more direct say in the choice of EU leadership by allowing the public of the 27 EU Member States directly to elect the President of the European Commission.

He was first elected to the Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) in 1969 at the age of 22 as a member of the Fine Gael Party, becoming Party Leader in 1990 and leading it into government in 1994.

Website: www.johnbruton.com

Cross Party Debate

Naomi Long MEP - Alliance Party

A lifelong resident of East Belfast, Naomi Long MEP grew up just off Mersey Street, was educated at Mersey Street Primary and Bloomfield Collegiate, before going on to study civil engineering at Queen’s University. Following graduation, Naomi worked for almost 10 years in the engineering industry in Northern Ireland.

Naomi has been politically active since her early twenties and first joined Belfast City Council as an Alliance Party councillor in 2001. Naomi was subsequently elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly as MLA for East Belfast in 2003. She also had the honour of serving as Lord Mayor of Belfast from 2009 to 2010, before becoming the first Alliance MP to sit in Westminster after being elected Member of Parliament for East Belfast in May 2010.

In May 2016, Naomi returned to the Northern Ireland Assembly as MLA for East Belfast, before becoming Leader of Alliance that October. Since then, she has presided over two of the most successful elections in Alliance’s history, with the most recent local government election seeing the party substantially increase its standing across Northern Ireland, and the 2019 European poll seeing her elected as Alliance’s first MEP.

Twitter: @naomi_long

Website: www.allianceparty.org/our_mep

Billy Kelleher MEP - Fianna Fáil

Elected as an MEP for the first time in 2019, Billy was previously a member Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) for 22 years, and served as Minister for Labour Affairs, Trade and Commerce and as Assistant Government Whip during the last Fianna Fáil government.

With a background in farming, Billy understands the challenges that Brexit will bring for farmers living and working along the Border.

“The causes of Brexit have been long debated. What is now needed is a concerted effort by all sides to reduce the damage to communities or ideally stop Brexit from taking place in the first place.

Those advocating for Brexit must be reminded that there is no form of Brexit that will ever be positive for the island of Ireland.”

Twitter: @BillyKelleherEU

Sean Kelly MEP - Fine Gael

Seán Kelly has been a member of the European Parliament for Ireland South since 2009. He is the current leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament, and part of the European People’s Party (EPP) Group. Seán sits on the European Parliament’s Committees on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), International Trade (INTA) and Human Rights (DROI). He is a member of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Delegation for relations with South Africa. 

Seán has been extremely active on issues surrounding the UK’s decision to withdraw from the European Union, speaking on behalf of Fine Gael in all Brexit Parliamentary debates, and serving as an active member of the EPP Group’s Brexit Advisory Working Group. Seán has also been centrally involved in highlighting Irish issues on Brexit at EU level, notably by leading the organisation of a high-level EPP Bureau meeting in Wicklow in 2017, which included a visit to the border, and the participation of then Taoiseach Enda Kenny, EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, EPP Group Leader Manfred Weber, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others.

Seán is a very active MEP, particularly in the areas of Climate Change, Energy and Trade, and his most recent work includes helping to secure the 32% EU Renewable Energy target, overseeing the Parliament’s approval of the EU-Singapore free trade agreement, and finalising the EU’s new €650 billion InvestEU programme. Seán has also represented the European Parliament at three UNFCCC Climate Conferences, in Paris (2015), Marrakech (2016) and Katowice (2018).

Twitter: @SeanKellyMEP

Website: www.seankelly.eu/

Ellie Chowns MEP - Green Party of England and Wales

Ellie Chowns is the first Green MEP to represent the West Midlands in the EU. Prior to the European elections Ellie was a lecturer in the field of international development; she has spent over 20 years working with charities and in higher education. Ellie is passionate about tackling inequality, addressing the climate crisis, and promoting youth engagement in politics.

Twitter: @EllieChownsMEP

Website: www.greenparty.org.uk/people/ellie-chowns-mep.html

Gina Dowding MEP - Green Party of England and Wales

Gina Dowding is a Member of European Parliament for North West England since July 2019, and a member of the Foreign Affairs, Transport, and Industry, Research and Energy committees.

A Green Party member since 1986, Gina’s current roles include being an active County Councillor on Lancashire County Council.

She is committed to a philosophy of tackling climate change through system change, and in strengthening local democracies particularly, and currently, in the fight to stop the shale gas industry developing in the UK.

Twitter: @GinaDowdingMEP

Website: www.greenparty.org.uk/people/gina-dowding-mep.html

Ciarán Cuffe MEP - Green Party

Ciarán Cuffe is an architect and planner. He has served as a Dublin City Councillor, TD for Dún Laoghaire, and Minister of State with responsibility for sustainable transport and climate change. In government he reformed the Irish planning system to limit rezoning, link transport and planning decisions and focus on evidence-led decision-making.

He set up an MSc Programme in Urban Regeneration at TU Dublin. In 2019 he graduated with an MSc in Cities from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Dublin Constituency. He is passionate about walkable, bikeable and liveable cities. In the European Parliament he sits on the Transport and Tourism Committee, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, and as a substitute on the Regional Development Committee.

Twitter: @CiaranCuffe

Website: www.ciarancuffe.ie/

Grace O’Sullivan MEP - Green Party

Grace O’Sullivan is an ecologist, an environmental education specialist and a former Greenpeace activist, from Tramore in Co Waterford.

She served as a Senator in Seanad Éireann (Irish Senate) from 2016 to 2019 where she sat on the Agricultural Panel. During her time as Senator, she focussed on environmental and social issues such as eliminating microbeads, protecting Ireland’s biodiversity and housing and planning issues. Grace is passionate about protecting the health of our oceans and promoting sustainable agriculture.

She was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Ireland South Constituency and currently sits on the Fisheries and the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committees.

Twitter: @GraceOSllvn

Website: www.greenparty.ie/candidate/grace/

Luisa Porritt MEP - Liberal Democrats

Luisa Porritt is Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat delegation in the European Parliament and an MEP for London. She sits on the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, as well as those covering foreign affairs, budgetary control and petitions.

Luisa is also an elected member of local government on Camden Council in the UK. She has campaigned for the UK’s continuing EU membership since joining the Liberal Democrats in 2016. Before becoming an MEP, she ran the UK arm of French financial communications agency Fargo and taught economic and European history for the University of London’s International Programme. Prior to that, she worked as a journalist, writing for publications such as The Economist, Reuters and the FT.

Twitter: @LuisaPorritt

Website: www.londonlibdems.org.uk/luisa_porritt

Theresa Griffin MEP - Labour

Theresa is the chair of the EPLP and Labour’s spokesperson on the industry, research and energy committee, and a member of the transport and tourism committee. Theresa has been a Labour Party member for more than 30 years, and is an active campaigner at local, CLP, national and European levels.

Theresa is a committed trade union activist and has campaigned closely with all unions on employment rights, rights for young people and equality and against the BNP, EDL and far-right.

As a Liverpool city councillor in the 1990s, she was lead member for Economic Development and Europe and was instrumental in bringing Objective One status and billions of pounds of investment to the Liverpool city region.

Twitter: @TheresaMEP

Website: www.theresagriffin.eu/

Jill Evans MEP - Plaid Cymru

Jill Evans was born in the Rhondda in 1959 where she still lives. Jill attended University in Aberystwyth and then worked as a Research Assistant at the former Polytechnic of Wales where she gained her M.Phil. Degree. She worked for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in Wales for six years before taking up a post as Wales Regional Organiser for CHILD – The National Infertility Support Network.

Jill Evans was a councillor for seven years – on the former Rhondda Borough and Mid Glamorgan County Councils and then Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council. She was elected as Plaid Cymru’s Alternate Member of the Committee of the Regions in 1993 and served for four years, and was also the party’s representative on the European Free Alliance, working with Plaid Cymru’s sister parties throughout the continent.

Jill was Chair of Plaid Cymru between 1994 and 1996. In June 1999 she was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for Wales and is a member of the Green / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group – the fourth largest group in the Parliament. She has most recently been re-elected for her 5th mandate in the Parliament. She was the President of EFA, and the first Vice-President of the Greens/EFA Group in the EP.

In the present parliament, Jill is a member of the Committee on Regional Development and she deputises on the Transport and Tourism Committee. She is also a member of the Delegation for relations with Palestine.

Jill is former President of Plaid Cymru, the current party spokesperson for European and International issues and former chair of CND Cymru.

Twitter: @JillEvansMEP

Website: jillevans.net

Martina Anderson MEP - Sinn Féin

Martina Anderson MEP was born on 16th April 1962- raised in the Bogside in Derry City, she comes from a large family of 6 sisters and 3 brothers brought up in a tradition of Irish Republicanism.

Martina has been involved with the Irish republican struggle for over thirty years. Having spent over thirteen years as a political prisoner in prisons in England and Ireland, she was released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and immediately started work in Sinn Féin.

Since 2014, Martina has been the head of the Sinn Féin delegation in the European Parliament and is currently Sinn Féin’s lead spokesperson on Brexit. In this role, Martina has been one of the key activist who have been holding the Irish and British Governments to account at an EU level.

During the 2016 EU referendum, Martina campaigned actively for a Remain vote and argued that any Brexit would be fundamentally incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement.

Since then, Martina has been on a diplomatic offensive to ensure legally binding protections for the Good Friday Agreement, in all of its parts. She has also lobbied MEPs, Ambassadors and heads of the EU 27 Member States to ensure that Ireland is one of the key EU negotiation priorities.

Martina has argued in the European Parliament that there is no good Brexit outcome for Ireland, and that the Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful, democratic and legitimate pathway for all of Ireland to remain in the EU through the GFA mechanism on Irish Unity – as stated by the European Council in April 2017.

She is the left group’s (GUE/NGL) Brexit lead on Ireland and Coordinator of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO).

Twitter: @M_AndersonSF

Website: www.martinamep.eu/

Alyn Smith MEP - Scottish National Party

Born in Glasgow in 1973, Alyn grew up in Scotland and Saudi Arabia, returning to Scotland in 1986. He graduated from Nottingham Law School and gained a Masters degree in European Studies from the College of Europe in Warsaw.

Alyn was elected to the European Parliament for the first time in 2004 and has been re-elected three times in the SNP victories in the 2009, 2014 and 2019 elections. He is a member of the SNP’s National Executive Committee. In Parliament, he is a full member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Twitter: @AlynSmith

Website: www.alynsmith.eu/

Moderated by

Tony Connelly - RTÉ

Tony Connelly is Europe Editor for RTÉ News and Current Affairs. He has been covering EU and European Affairs from Brussels since 2001.
Tony has reported extensively on the period before and after the Brexit referendum.

He is the author of “Brexit and Ireland: the Dangers, the Opportunities and the Inside Story of the Irish Response” and has come to be seen as a pre-eminent writer and commentator on Brexit. His analysis of the negotiations has been described as a rich resource for future historians. In December 2018, he was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award for Journalism at the UCD Business Journalists Awards.

Twitter: @tconnellyRTE

Panel Discussion

Ellie Crawford - Co-Founder of “Northern Ireland Student Climate Network”

Ellie Crawford is the Co-Founder of Northern Ireland Student Climate Network Northern Ireland (NISCN). NISCN  is a group of mostly under 18s taking to the streets to protest the government’s lack of action on the Climate Crisis.

They mobilise in unprecedented numbers of students to create a strong movement and send a message that they are tired of being ignored.

Doire Finn - Co-Founder of “Our Future Our Choice Northern Ireland”

Doire Finn is the 24 year old Co founder Our Future Our Choice Northern Ireland. She attended Queens University Belfast where she studied international politics and conflict studies.

Doire has been working for the last year directly to engage with young people across Northern Ireland to have their voices heard and gain a People’s Vote.

Twitter: @FinnDoire

Katy Hayward - Political Sociologist, Queen's University Belfast

Dr Katy Hayward is Reader in Sociology in Queen’s University Belfast, a Fellow of the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security & Justice, a Senior Fellow of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative (based at King’s College London), for which she is the leading expert on Ireland/Northern Ireland. She is the author of over 200 publications, including Brexit at the Border (2018).

Katy has presented widely on the topic of Brexit to public, policy, media and academic audiences and has given expert evidence before parliamentary committees in the UK and Ireland. She is a board member of the Centre for Cross Border Studies (Armagh) and Conciliation Resources (an international peacebuilding NGO).

Twitter: @hayward_katy

Damian McGenity - Co-Founder of “Border Communities Against Brexit"

Damian McGenity is Coordinator for Border Communities Against Brexit and he manages the local Post Office, is a part-time farmer and is married with four children.

Border Communities Against Brexit is a citizens group with members from Dundalk to Derry, from both sides of the border & from both sides of the community. Winners of the 2017 EU Citizens Prize for Ireland, the group is credited by many for putting the Irish Border at the heart of the UK negotiations to leave the European Union.

Twitter: @damian_mcgenity

Moderated by

William Crawley - Broadcaster (BBC)

William Crawley is a journalist and broadcaster with the BBC presenting TV and radio programmes on subjects as varied as news and politics, arts and science, and religion and ethics. He hosts the daily radio current affairs programme Talkback for the BBC in Northern Ireland, Sunday on BBC Radio 4, and regularly writes and presents documentaries for Radio 3, Radio 4, and the BBC World Service.

His television work — more than 30 documentaries and series — includes the landmark natural history series Blueprint, which now forms part of the Ulster Museum’s permanent collection; the interview series William Crawley Meets, in which he meets thought leaders from across the world; a three-part autobiographical series documenting life in Northern Ireland (Sorry For Your Trouble, Dying For A Drink, and Losing Our Religion); Independent People: The Story of Ulster’s Presbyterians; and Brave New World, a 15-part global history of immigration.

He is a recipient of the Eisenhower Fellowship; in 2012 he received an honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Lit.) degree from Queen’s University Belfast for services to broadcasting; and in 2019 he was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Twitter: @williamcrawley