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Conflict Resolution in N. Ireland, A miracle of power sharing between former enemies
Spl. Report London, Oct 30 (NPN):
Published on 31 Oct. 2010 12:56 AM IST
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Whenever there is mention of Conflict Resolution, the name of Northern Ireland, a region having nearly 18 lakh people, is more often than not, mentioned as a classic example where two conflicting ideologies that have existed for around 800 years came to an understanding through cease fires in 1997 and 2004 ending several decades of brutal sectarian violence that began in the late 60s in which nearly 3500 were killed.
The Northern Ireland experience has been described as “a miracle” where two ideologically sworn enemies- the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the pro-Irish Republic and anti-British Sinn Fein (an Irish republican political movement founded in 1905 to promote independence from England and unification of Ireland. Gaelic= We Ourselves), the political wing of the militant Irish Republican Army, are running a coalition government in Northern Ireland. The power sharing agreement was made possible by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which Britain and Ireland helped broker.
The IRA called its first cease-fire August 31, 1994, in response to an Anglo-Irish peace initiative. The IRA broke that truce with a bomb attack in London's Docklands district in February 1996 that killed two men. The IRA called for the second cease fire in 1997 and in 2004, the UDA agreed to also respond to the cease fire, paving the way for a broad based cease fire with the British government. Economic disparities and unequal rights had precipitated sectarian violence between the Unionists who are in favour of remaining with U.K. and the Republicans who want merger with the Republic of Ireland.
The Northern Ireland assembly has 108 seats with the two main parties- DUP and Sinn Fein-holding the reins of power. DUP has 55 MLAs and Sinn Fein 44 with the remaining seats held by other parties.
A delegation from Nagaland comprising of Editors and some government media persons visited Belfast from October 23-25 and attended a workshop on Conflict Transformation at the Queen’s University Belfast and also met with leaders of the Sinn Fein and its opponent, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The ‘Miracle’ in Northern Ireland was made possible through the contributions of various sections such as Lord Diljit Rana MBE, member of the British Upper House who hosted breakfast in his hotel for the visiting delegation from Nagaland. Lord Rana is also a hotelier and also President of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin.
At the interaction with the delegation, Lord Rana described the agreement on Devolution of Power in Northern Ireland as “ a miracle” that happened because the militant groups realized that violence would never solve any problem and that negotiation was the only way forward.
Role of individual
Lord Rana was among those who worked behind the scenes in making contact with the Sinn Fein and Unionists to bring about an agreement for power sharing.
It may also be pointed that Northern Ireland has 45.57% protestant, 40.26% Catholic and the others.
Role of Media
The local Northern Ireland media owing to polarization of the society reflected the views along sectarian interests, stated Dr. Katy Hayward, at the workshop in Queen’s University.
Dr Hayward went on to say that in conflict situations, the media could choose to be detached or involved. He also said over simplification of the conflict was not a choice and neither being caught in conflict fixation.
Well known Irish journalist and author of Irish affair, Eamonn Mallie believed that the Irish media failed to challenge the political philosophies of Irish politicians. Mallie said though he came from a Catholic background and living in a predominantly Catholic community, he chose to put his head above the dangerous waters of sectarianism.
Mallie revealed that he spoke for both communities, a trait which he picked up from his mother, a woman who cared and helped those from both communities affected by violence.

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