Professor Peter Shirlow FAcSS is Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Liverpool University. We asked Professor Peter to do an interview as a follow up to his article for the newsletter earlier this year. When asked about the Institute of Irish Studies, Professor Peter told IIBN that as an academic institution we promote research on Ireland, develop British-Irish relations and support Irish cultural activity in Great Britain.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

To develop Irish cultural activity and the bring Irish business into greater and mutually rewarding relationships with the Institute

What are your biggest challenges?

Building networks with the Irish business community in Great Britain.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

We are very fortunate that we host significant cultural events such as the Seamus Heaney lecture. As academics we are very fortunate that we can combine our research with direct connections of the Irish community in Great Britain.

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

As noted building networks. We need greater partnership between the business community and the Institute. We share the same commitment to acknowledge the Irish in Britain and the significant contribution that they make to economic, social and cultural life. It’s how we bring the business community into that, especially following Brexit that is critical.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Digital engagement. The means and modes of community to society are changing. Therefore we are keen to promote what we do and build synergies via digital means.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I think in the wake of Brexit I would like to see more focus on the future of interdependence between these islands. How do ensure that the Irish in Great Britain continue to make a valued contribution in changing times?

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

We are presently doing research on the Withdrawal Agreement. That is about NI-RoI and Ireland-Great Britain relationships. We are mapping out the impacts of that Agreement and leading debates on Brexit.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Relevance. There is no point aiming to work with the Irish in Britain unless we are relevant to them and their thoughts and needs.  The sense that academic work has impact is critical.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Two things. First change takes time. If you have a strategy it will work and if it does not then return to the drawing board. Secondly, do not take things personally. There are good and bad days. It’s hard not to but deep breaths help!

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

The securing of the joint-patronage of HRH Prince Charles and President Higgins. Although that was achieved by the hard work of others at the Institute.

What’s next for your company?

New cultural activities and bringing more people to us who will find a place to present their identity and culture.  Obviously Ireland is ever-changing and we want to be where the debates are happening.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020?

We are constantly expanding as we see every day as a challenge. We constantly develop new ideas and challenge what we do. So opportunity is not an event or episode it is a way of thinking. The question of strategy is simple – what’s next?

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Known as the key cultural site for debate, dialogue and representation for the Irish in Britain.