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LILP: ‘Breaking the Log-Jam’

CONFERENCE REPORT 23 September 2003. Parliament Buildings, Stormont

The purpose of the Breaking the Logjam Conference was to bring a cross section of the Northern Ireland community together with politicians from the major parties and provide a forum at which the need to, the will to and how we move forward could be discussed.

It took place at a time when there was doubt as to whether elections to a Northern Ireland Assembly would take place.

We recognise that political events quickly move on yet there were issues raised at the conference, which could continually apply both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.


Areas of general agreement:

  • There was a real need for greater collective responsibility between politicians, community in general and citizens.
  • It is essential for people to enter into dialogue and that politicians hear what they are saying.
  • It is only through this process that people are given a sense of value and the confidence with each other.
  • The lack of an Assembly was universally criticised.

Specific perspectives:

  • On the Assembly:
  • There was debate on the extent of individual Ministerial responsibility compared with collective responsibility and the power base of Ministers / Departments as compared with the Assembly s power.
  • There is a need for quicker decision making.
  • The business community have been and want to continue developing positive engagement. This sector wants a locally elected assembly and local accountable Ministers.
  • Despite the political differences there is a sense that parties are involved in a common process.
  • The Executive should have a more strategic focus.
  • On Peacebuilding:

    There are three stages to peacebuilding (based on the work of Naomi Chazan)

    1. the encounter stage when there is agreement to ignore the past for the time being
    2. the internal societal change the traumatic period in which identity, religion, ethnicity and territory are all questioned and challenged
    3. the reconciliation stage this period is about values and recognising peace as an objective and mechanism to establish a fair society.
      • Concerns were expressed about the ineffectiveness and / or lack of vision of the Shared Future document.
      • There was a need to find a common voice in support of peace.
      • Peace and reconciliation is everyone's responsibility.
      • Confidence building is essential to breaking logjams.
      • The vision of peace can be different between politicians and the community sector. Politicians can view it as making a deal and getting the choreography right. The community sector sees it as a long term, subtle process which works for changes in attitudes and levels of understanding.
  • On the Civic Forum:

Opposite opinions were expressed about the Forum, from support for it and regret that it was suspended along with the Assembly to views that doubted the Forum s effectiveness.

  • On Perceptions:

    From the presentations and discussions it was evident that there were many perceptions of issues and sometimes even the same words carried different meaning - eg - who were the victims, what type of government and agreement would serve the people, how people understood the conflict and how political aspirations, recognised in the Good Friday Agreement, still evoked strong reactions.


It is clear that breaking the political logjam is not just about the institutions; societal context, the connection with the people and the trust of the people are vital. It was also interesting to note the issues that were not prominent. There was no reference whatsoever to east-west relations which are important to the unionist/loyalist tradition. There was some reference to north-south relations, which are important to nationalist/republican traditions.
To view the full conference agenda, click here.

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Friday, 19-Mar-2010 15:50
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