Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Combat Poverty Agency and Area Development Management Ltd


  This submission is made by the Combat Poverty Agency and Area Development Management Limited. The Combat Poverty Agency (CPA) is the Irish State Agency which advises the Irish Government on social and economic policies pertaining to poverty in the State. Area Development Management Ltd (ADM) is an intermediary company, established by the Irish Government in agreement with the European Commission, to promote social inclusion, reconciliation and equality to and to counter disadvantage through local and economic development.

  Since 1994, CPA and ADM have jointly, through an office based in the Border Counties in Monaghan (ADM/CPA), had responsibility for the implementation of a number of measures of the EU funded Peace I and Peace II Programmes in the Border Counties of Ireland. ADM/CPA have also worked in a Consortium with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and Co-operation Ireland to implement some of the cross-border measures.

  CPA and ADM welcome the Inquiry into Healing the Wounds: Ways of Dealing with Northern Ireland's Past and the opportunity to make a submission to it.


  To date, we have learnt a number of lessons from our work on the Peace Programmes. Some of the lessons most relevant to the work of the Inquiry are summarised below:

    —  At a grassroots level the Peace Programmes have contributed much to building peace and reconciliation in Ireland since 1994. The work has led to a number of tangible benefits including a new mobilisation of thousands of ordinary citizens, a series of experiments in new forms of governance and the animation of a debate about the conduct of the peace process and the needs of the people.

    —  Peace building is a long term process. Therefore, it is critically important to continue the work of peace building at grass roots level.

    —  As we move into a post-conflict society the nature of that response may change, but we need to build on what has already been achieved.

    —  Strengthening cross-border co-operation and relationships across the island of Ireland will have many benefits.

    —  The grassroots work is extremely important. However, it needs to be complemented by initiatives at political and societal level, such as supporting political structures, legislation and institutions on rights and equality and civil society.

    —  In this context an Inquiry into ways of dealing with Northern Ireland's past is very relevant.


  From our work we have come to understand that one of the fundamentals of contributing to peace building is to examine what is meant by peace-building and reconciliation. In our work to date it has become apparent that:

    —  Peace building is a process or a journey which starts with the removal of violence, to increasing contacts with previous adversaries or the "other community", to confidence building, to addressing differences, to understanding and acceptance of each other, to reconciliation. This journey is not necessarily linear as several things can be going on at different levels at the same time.

    —  Peace building attempts to address both the causes and effects of conflict.

    —  Reconciliation is a process whereby past trauma, injury and suffering is acknowledged and healing/restorative action is pursued. Relationship breakdown is addressed and sustainable relationships are created. The culture and structures which gave rise to conflict and estrangement are transformed or reconstructed with a view to creating an equitable, diverse and interdependent community.

    —  In general, reconciliation appears to operate at a more personal and group level, whereas peace building appears to operate more at an institutional and political level. Moving towards a more peaceful society requires work which is both bottom-up and top-down.

    —  There is clearly overlap between peace building and reconciliation. However, there are other situations where there is peaceful co-existence. This is where people can live peacefully for a period in peace but without reconciliation. Peaceful co-existence may take on different aspects in different circumstances, but may be seen as a reluctance to address the causes of the conflict. This may not be sustainable in the long-term peace building process.

  It is in this context, where reconciliation is clearly integral to peace building and where addressing the past is integral to reconciliation that ways of dealing with the past needs to be considered for Northern Ireland.


  It is recognised that a reconciliation process generally involves five interwoven and related strands[4]. These are:

    I.  Developing a shared vision of an interdependent and fair society: The development of a vision of a shared future requiring the involvement of the whole society, at all levels. Although individuals may have different opinions or political beliefs, the articulation of a common vision of an interdependent, just, equitable, open and diverse society is a critical part of any reconciliation process.

    II.  Acknowledging and dealing with the past: Acknowledging the hurt, losses, truths and suffering of the past. Providing the mechanisms for justice, healing, restitution or reparation, and restoration (including apologies if necessary and steps aimed at redress). To build reconciliation, individuals and institutions need to acknowledge their own role in the conflicts of the past, accepting and learning from it in a constructive way so as to guarantee non-repetition.

    III.  Building positive relationships: Relationship building or renewal following violent conflict addressing issues of trust, prejudice, intolerance in this process, resulting in accepting commonalities and differences, and embracing and engaging with those who are different to us.

    IV.  Significant cultural and attitudinal change: Changes in how people relate to, and their attitudes towards, one another. The culture of suspicion, fear, mistrust and violence is broken down and opportunities and space opened up in which people can hear and be heard. A culture of respect for human rights and human difference is developed creating a context where each citizen becomes an active participant in society and feels a sense of belonging.

    V.  Substantial social, economic and political change: The social, economic and political structures which gave rise to the conflict and estrangement are identified, reconstructed or addressed, and transformed.

  Thus, acknowledging and dealing with the past is part of the reconciliation process, but it is important that it is seen in this broader context, where attention is also paid to the other elements.


  There are various ways of dealing with the past. ADM/CPA welcome the approach taken by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to examine approaches in other jurisdictions. Certainly, the evidence would suggest that a number of factors need to be taken into account. These include:

    —  The decision of whether or not to engage in a process to deal with the past needs to be made by the community involved. In this regard a consultation process would be an important next step.

    —  There are various approaches to dealing with the past eg story telling, tribunals, inquiries, commissions. Some approaches include amnesties, others have a focus on retributive justice. The Healing Through Remembering Project has done some very useful work in this area, which the Inquiry should take into consideration

    —  Discussion on, and an understanding of, the causes and effect of conflict would also be a useful contribution to the discussion, by way of working towards a common narrative. For example, the Combat Poverty Agency has recently completed some work on exploring the links between poverty and conflict and the important role social reconstruction can play in working towards a more peaceful and inclusive society. This would be one of a number of elements of this work.

    —  In acknowledging the past, the role of organisations and institutions needs to be included as well as the role of individuals.

    —  The broader community has a role in dealing with the past. Those involved in the Peace Programmes can contribute to this work through enhancing community discussion and promoting community interaction, but also through examining the past and future roles of institutions.

    —  There is no one single approach to deal with the past—this work should be part of a set of wider initiatives. Conversely, dealing with the past should be integral to reconciliation and peace building work.


  AMD/CPA welcomes the Inquiry and its purpose to seek out and illuminate ways which have been used to resolve similar conflicts elsewhere. ADM/CPA believes this is a useful first step. We suggest that it would then be useful to produce a consultation document based on this work, setting out the various options and their potential outcomes. This should be followed by a period of informed consultation, following which decisions could be taken on the best way to acknowledge and deal with the past. It is clearly an issue which needs to be dealt with in reconciliation and peace building work, in bringing about a peaceful future in Northern Ireland. We would welcome an opportunity to participate further in the process or to make oral representations, based on our work to date, if that was useful.

4   This material is based on work by Brandon Hamber and Gra«inne Kelly in A Working Definition of Reconciliation: Paper published by Democratic Dialogue, Belfast, September 2004. This understanding of Reconciliation has now been adopted in the draft material relating to the extension of the Peace II Programme for 2005 and 2006. Back

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