New partnership with Royal Irish Academy supports research and dialogue on the future of Ireland, north and south

On Monday (Jan. 11), the Royal Irish Academy and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs are launching the ARINS Project, an initiative that brings together leading experts from Ireland and abroad to consider the most challenging policy issues now being debated throughout the island of Ireland.

ARINS, or Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South, is being launched against the backdrop of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, which took full effect on Jan. 1. Brexit has created both a sense of urgency and opportunity regarding relationships within Ireland and between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom.

Research questions to be explored as part of the ARINS Project range from constitutional and institutional issues to options for economic, fiscal and social policy. Relations within Northern Ireland, across the island of Ireland, and between Ireland and Britain will all be assessed.

“While the issue of a future referendum on the constitutional position of Ireland has been raised, holding a referendum in the absence of prior research and informed debate on the options and their consequences would be most unfortunate,” said Gerry McKenna, senior vice president of the Royal Irish Academy, an all-Ireland, leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities. “The academy recognizes the sensitivities around the very process of conducting such research, but also believes that the need to ensure that all eventualities are anticipated and researched, and that ensuing debate is informed and comprehensive, takes primacy.”

This new partnership enables the RIA and Keough-Naughton Institute to jointly conduct and commission rigorous, nonpartisan and independent research by a wide range of scholars in multiple disciplines. In publishing and publicizing that research, the goal is to support respectful debate among politicians, within the media and civil society, and among the general public.

“Research on these matters is not intended to strengthen or weaken any particular aspiration, but rather to foster meaningful debate,” said Patrick Griffin, the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History and director of the Keough School’s Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies. “Irrespective of how constitutional questions might develop, it is also essential to understand how the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and its institutions might be affected by the uncertainties of this moment. As part of this exercise, it is critical to map interdependencies and connections within and between Northern Ireland, Ireland and the United Kingdom.”

Papers will be published monthly in the Irish Studies in International Affairs journal edited by John Doyle, director of the Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction at Dublin City University. All articles will be free to access online at Each article published will be accompanied by at least one response, often from a different standpoint. Forthcoming articles include Jennifer Todd, University College Dublin, on Unionism, identity and Irish unity; Deirdre Heenan, Ulster University, on cross-border cooperation on health issues; Duncan Morrow, Ulster University, on Unionist responses to the new debate on constitutional futures; Rory Montgomery, a former Irish diplomat, on the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and a united Ireland; and Katy Hayward, Queen’s University Belfast, on Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol. Climate policy in the two jurisdictions has also been identified for detailed research and analysis.

Other experts contributing to the ARINS project include Alan Barrett, Economic and Social Research Institute; Marie Cowan, Geological Survey of Northern Ireland; Etain Tannam, Trinity College Dublin; Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Ulster University; and Christopher McCrudden, Queen’s University Belfast.

On Jan. 11, the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph will publish opposing viewpoints from Brendan O’Leary, University of Pennsylvania, and Peter Shirlow, University of Liverpool, on whether the Irish should prepare for a referendum on unification.

At 7 p.m. local time that day, Fintan O’Toole, an Irish Times columnist, and William Crawley, a BBC commentator, will have an online public conversation on the theme “Northern Ireland after Brexit.” 

The Royal Irish Academy discourse program is sponsored by Mason Hayes & Curran.

Read more about ARINS


Contact: Mary Hendriksen, assistant director, Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies,

Originally published at on January 11, 2021.

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