Despite Northern Ireland’s political progress after decades of violence, difficult legacy issues still confront many people particularly in areas that suffered most, an event organised by the University of Ulster and three community-based peace groups heard today.
The past is a live issue and how it is dealt with remains a daunting challenge for the combined efforts of communities and the people who make policy, organisers said. The event, which was held in Belfast, marked the completion of the first year of ‘Journeys Out’, a pioneering project supported by the EU’s PEACE III Programme.
INCORE, the University of Ulster’s International Conflict Research Institute, hosted the round table conference to explore how community leaders can influence politicians and policy-makers and shape strategies that help individuals and communities deal with long-term effects of the past.
Journeys Out is a partnership between INCORE at the University of Ulster, Intercomm, Belfast; Peace and Reconciliation Group, Derry/Londonderry; and Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Co. Wicklow.
The project has received £474,000 from the European Union’s PEACE III Programme. It works with community practitioners to build their capacity, skills and awareness to identify and deal with the legacies of the conflict as a key aspect of their work. Participants today included community leaders who during the past year have undertaken the Journeys Out programme.
The programme was designed to increase their awareness of legacy issues and build their capacity to highlight the impact of the past and need for remedial measures. A key task was an audit of the legacies of the conflict that remain unaddressed in their local communities.
Professor Brandon Hamber, Director of INCORE, which is based at the Magee campus, said: “This is a particularly timely and relevant dialogue to be initiating with policy makers at this time. The issue of dealing with the past is squarely on the agenda in Northern Ireland and it is vital that these debates are taking place not only at a community level, put also within policy circles. We hope that this event highlights and provides evidence of the myriad issues that need to be addressed at macro policy level.”
GrÃ¡inne Kelly Policy/Practice Coordinator with INCORE said: “Over the past year, we have worked with these 18 community leaders to increase their awareness to the debates around dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. Now these leaders have the opportunity to bring these live community issues to the policy makers and policy shapers and to advocate for solutions that can bring change at a community level.
“Through their research, the community leaders found that the impact of the conflict is still being felt by people of all age groups and social groups and that much work is still needed to address many complex societal issues at a strategic policy level.
“Today’s event, entitled ‘The Community Landscape of Dealing with the Past: Pushing through the Silence’, provides an opportunity for dialogue and sharing between community leaders and policy influencers and aims to create a space for much needed new thinking around future policymaking to address the legacies of the conflict within local communities."