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Staff blog

BLOG: Agreement 25 – Continuing our proud heritage of service to society

"In the midst of all of the change the University has witnessed, there has remained, for us, one constant: positive contribution, genuine impact and understanding the needs of society have formed the backbone of who we are and what we do."

George Mitchell and Heather MacLachlan with key figures in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and politicians at the unveiling of the Mitchell bust, April 2023
Irish Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Irish visuals artist Colin Davidson, Heather MacLachlan, former US Senator George Mitchell, Hillary Clinton, former US President Bill Clinton, former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair, Professor Ian Greer of Queen's University Belfast, and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, after the unveiling of a bust of former US Senator George Mitchell, Queen's University Belfast, 17 April 2023.
A blog by Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University Belfast.


From our earliest beginnings, Queen’s University Belfast has been a witness to history – two World Wars, as well as social, political and economic change both here in Northern Ireland and on a global scale. Throughout the past 177 years of our existence, there have been many changes and challenges for us and for the society we serve.

But, in the midst of all of the change the University has witnessed, there has remained, for us, one constant: positive contribution, genuine impact and understanding the needs of society have formed the backbone of who we are and what we do here at Queen’s.

This University has a heritage of giving back, one that is written into our DNA as far back as our historic motto – which we share with the City of Belfast – Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus: ‘What shall we give in return for so much?’

This week we continue that legacy as we host Agreement 25, a high-profile conference to mark the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The event will bring together prominent global figures to share their experiences and expertise in peace building.

Partnership and collaboration have been at the heart of our efforts in delivering such a large-scale and high-profile event, both internally and externally. We are proud to host Agreement 25 in partnership with the Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils, Council on Competitiveness, Women in Business, Politics in Action, the Lyric Theatre, as well as Hillsborough Castle, where supporting events will also take place, including a programme for schools.

As President and Vice-Chancellor, I am also deeply proud of, and grateful for, the exceptional work of our staff in organising an event of such scale and importance. It has involved extensive planning and collaboration across the University internally, and our staff community has truly embodied our University’s core values of Excellence, Connectivity, Ambition, Respect and Integrity in its delivery.

From colleagues in our Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice to our Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, Strategic Communications and Development and Alumni directorates, which sit within the Office of the Vice-President of Strategic Engagement and External Affairs, to colleagues in Eventus and Campus Food and Drink and our Security and Portering teams – to name just some of the areas who have contributed to this tremendous shared effort – this event has been made possible by a diverse team of colleagues at Queen’s, all working in different areas and in different roles, coming together with shared purpose.  

Building on our proud heritage as a centre for civic debate and dialogue, Agreement 25 will provide an opportunity to both reflect upon and recognise the historic achievements of 25 years ago and to look ahead to the future, considering how we best address the key issues impacting society today so we can build on the current peace over the next 25 years and ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for Northern Ireland.

This is an event that exemplifies our commitment to civic engagement and service to society, to remaining – as one of the University’s most distinguished graduates, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, described Queen’s University Belfast in ‘The Centenary Stanza’ (a poem he wrote to mark the granting of the Royal Charter to Queen's in 1908) – a ‘bulwark’, an institution working always for the good of all, both locally and globally:

The Centenary Stanza

by Seamus Heaney

Still red brickwork
Remains our bulwark:
Here exercise
Of mind has stood
To us, for us
These hundred years,
And will, for good.

To find out more about our Agreement 25 celebrations, including how to access the livestream of the event, visit the Agreement 25 website.

Photo: Professor Ian Greer
Professor Ian Greer
President and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University Belfast