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Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland- Part II
Spl. Report London, OCT 31 (NPN):
Published on 1 Nov. 2010 12:49 AM IST
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Since 2007, two sworn enemies- unionists (against secession from UK) and republicans (for merger with Ireland)-are sharing power in Northern Ireland, which has been described as a ‘miracle’ and a case for studies in conflict resolution.
Any one going to Northern Ireland, particularly Belfast will come across a friendly and helpful people and would be quite bewildered by the level of hate and violence lavishly displayed during the past several decades.
The question that comes to mind is how can Protestants and Catholics sharing the same Christ and belonging to the same race, hate each other so much?
To understand the Irish conundrum, one would have to delve into history since the 1800 and it won’t be easy to get a grip as the issue is complex. However, the divide along sectarian lines begins early in life when children from both communities study in segregated schools. Hatred during the centuries erupted into brutal killings and revenge-killings from the late 60s till some measure of peace came in 1994.
Talks were being held at various levels –government, church, NGOs, individuals etc -even before the ceasefire was accepted, with the primary goal of silencing the guns and enabling the voices to reason out through negotiations.
Church from both sides of the divide, including peace making ministries like the Quakers, also responded and contributed towards bringing back some form of normalcy.
The delegation from Nagaland were able to meet with leaders of the two rival groups- Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party at separate locations.
According to Sinn Fein’s political adviser, there was no dilution to their demand for ‘merger’ with the Irish Republic in the south. He explained that total devolution of power by Westminster would enable the process bear fruit. Asked if he saw any possibility of breakdown in the coalition considering the fact that the unionists would never agree to secede from UK, Sinn Fein’s political adviser held the ground that there was no turning back the clock.
On the other hand, DUP member in the coalition was very clear that there would never be any merger with the Republic of Ireland under any circumstances.
Interacting with the editors and media persons from Nagaland, DUP member said what was more important is to accept realities-economically and militarily – that Northern Ireland was safer and better off with the UK.
He said solution is not easy and takes time, sometimes longer than what is desired. However, the people of Northern Ireland are not going to let the past return. They want a future and that is what the coalition will have to do, he said.
In comparison, what the Irish experience does is to make Nagas-all sections-look at the mirror of aspirations and see whether there can be the biggest clarity-which is willingness for togetherness.
Some would say there was the ‘same difference’ between the Irish and Naga experience. However, both the IRA and the Ulster Defence Force, as part of their agreement, voluntarily decommissioned all weapons (making weapons incapable of being reused).
The difference therefore, is that peace in Northern Ireland is on sound footing when both armed wings decommissioned their weapons to prevent any clash or resumption of violence.
The decommissioning of weapons by the militants (paramilitary) has been the greatest sacrifice made for peace and the biggest contributor to eventual peace in Northern Ireland.

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