PASSIA Seminar, Ireland & Palestine: Divided Countries United by History: 10-14 October 2004
10-14 October 2004, a delegation from Northern Ireland attended a seminar in Ramallah aimed at providing Palestinian participants with an introduction to the history and politics of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as with an increased understanding of peace-building and conflict resolution.
Northern Ireland Delegation
The delegation from Northern Ireland included: University of Ulster Professor, Tom Fraser; Liam Maskey, Executive Director, Intercomm; Jack O’Connor, Director of INTERREG, Special EU Programmes Body; and Helen Lewis, Project Coordinator, INCORE.
A series of lectures and discussions were conducted by academics from University of Limerick , New York University and National University of Ireland, as well as by Niall Holohan, Head of the Irish Representative Office to the Palestinian Authority, Ramallah.
In addition, University of Ulster Professor, Tom Fraser compared the history of partition in Ireland , India and Palestine . Liam Maskey, Executive Director of Intercomm discussed community development projects and programmes in North Belfast . Jack O’Connor, Director of INTERREG, Special EU Programmes Body explained current EU peace and reconciliation funding mechanisms. Helen Lewis provided an overview of community relations in Northern Ireland .
For a full Conference Agenda click here
The seventeen Palestinian participants were selected from a variety of different backgrounds including government, business and academia. Their enthusiasm for learning about Irish history and the peace process in Northern Ireland was inspirational. Many of the participants drew out similarities and differences between the conflicts/peace process in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine.
At the close of the seminar, the group agreed that ten lessons relevant to the Israel/Palestine could be drawn from Northern Ireland’s experience of peacemaking and peacebuilding:
- Make friends internationally with other governments and states.
- Make use of international treaties and systems.
- Violence can be counterproductive.
- Ceasefires can pay huge political dividends.
- Ensure the peace process and peace settlement is inclusive.
- Question the viability of partition as a long-term solution.
- Promote economic growth.
- Follow rights-based strategies and approaches.
- Put history aside and focus on the future.
- Build a strong civil society.
Palestinian participants in the seminar received a certificate recognizing their successful completion of the programme. A small number of participants will receive further support from PASSIA in order to pursue their interest in becoming experts and spokespersons on Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. PASSIA will also publish a seminar report.
As Professor Fraser noted, perhaps the most important outcome of the seminar was that it provided, “an opportunity for people from two of the world’s longest-running trouble spots to talk and learn from each other’s experiences…tragically, the events of the past few days in the Middle East have shown once again that the region is still a powder-keg."