That was the question Dympna McGlade asked during a recent discussion at the John & Pat Hume Foundation. The vice-chairman of the 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Committee noted:
“The Northern Irish executive is obsessed with agreements, but not necessarily with their full implementation.”
Since the Belfast Agreement we have …
St. Andrews Agreement (2007) Hillsborough Agreement (2010) Stormont House Agreement (2014) New Beginning Implementation Plan (2015) The New Decade – New Approach Deal (January 2020)
Did I miss any?
Alongside this, we conducted a range of research, guidelines and strategies on community and good relationships: Review of Community Relations Policy by Jeremy Harbison (2002), Shared Future Policy (2005) Strategy on Racial Equality (2005 and updated 2015) Cohesion, Sharing and Integration Strategy (2010) and the Current Strategy – Building a Common Community (T: BUC) (2013)
“Aside from tinkering with the margins and creating lots of new buzzwords and terminology and trending new ways to record output, I question the impact of all of these guidelines on the areas most affected by the conflict.
“Any new government policy / strategy for peace building has the result that terminology and aspirations are watered down to such an extent that they focus on community and economic development rather than peace and reconciliation.
“So I suggest we move on to the next phase of the peace process and create a peace plan for the current time we are in: not a fancy title; … No confusing terminology; Simple and to the point, that “peace and reconciliation speak” that the people on the street will understand and hopefully engage and participate in it. “
In her address, Dympna outlined how “the politics of guilt and disagreement” has hampered the once favorable conditions for lasting peace.
She called on politicians to “become leaders and advocates of peacebuilding, to work collectively and not as mini-fiefdoms” and to take responsibility towards society as a whole and not just towards its electoral base.
A peace plan should reflect the current context in which peace is being achieved and build on what has been achieved so far. In addition to a strategic framework and dedicated resources, it must include “a solid way of monitoring progress to ensure we continue to move positively towards a unified multicultural society” and “an agreement to hear and follow external expert advice”.
While the executive must honor and not undermine its agreements – citing the example of “shared apartments” that quickly found themselves in one side of the community – Dympna also emphasized that broad civic engagement is “essential to successful peacebuilding ” be.
“Volunteers and community groups should have the right to convey their honest opinions and recommendations to the government without fear of losing funding or standing on the side if doing so goes against political views.”
She said approaches to legacy problems “have been piece by piece and need to be addressed in a timed, comprehensive, and well-resourced plan to address all of the issues included in the Fresh Start Implementation Plan.”
“Until the legacy of past issues is addressed, they will continue to create differences, divisions and obstacles to political progress, reconciliation and economic growth.”
And she underscored the role of the paramilitary in stifling progress.
“If people who are moving away from paramilitary groups want to be involved in transforming society, they must fit into legitimate community plans, as many of their colleagues have successfully accomplished.
“Enough time has passed, there has been enough education, training and funding, and the plight of paramilitary groups is given a lot of consideration. You have a responsibility to disintegrate, end violence, and give up control within communities. It’s time to move on. And politicians and police have a responsibility to achieve this. “
She is ready:
“Reconciliation is the beating heart of the peace process. Reconciliation and peace building shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be complicated either. It should be as euphoric and exciting as the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Northern Ireland needs to think about what to expect from the peace process now. We can either push peacebuilding down under the weight of Brexit, COVID, recession and whatever other crisis you want to name, or we can develop a long-term roadmap for the direction of travel in terms of political interventions towards a common, reconciled and multicultural situation to achieve society. If we choose to move forward, we need long-term intervention and political and civic engagement.
“The next phase peace plan gives the government an opportunity to build on the solid foundations they have and to move forward with the open issues and addressing them.
“John Hume said,” The real duty, if we are to have a completely peaceful and stable country, is that all true democrats do the will of the people. “As Bill Clinton said,” Quit the job “.”
Eileen Bell (network coordinator at Shankill Women’s Center) and Duncan Morrow (community engagement director at Ulster University) responded to the paper in a discussion chaired by Dawn Purvis (Hume Foundation board member).
The hour-long event was one of many events that are organized. Another look at the unfinished business of reconciliation will be taped in Derry next week.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theater at Alan’s in Belfast. A freelance professional who writes and reports on civil, academic and political events, discusses cultural performances, leads discussions, and tweets, streams, and records live lectures and conferences. He provides training, coaching and advice on social media, produces podcasts, is a member of the Ofcom Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, a FactCheckNI board member and a member of the Corrymeela community.