Excerpts from Mairead Maguire's remarks made at 2006 Gwangju Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
One of the consequences of 80 years of the Partition of Ireland has been the cutting off of people from each other in the North and South of the country, resulting in lack of communication, trust, and a fear of the 'other' as being different. Also in the North of Ireland, the two main communities, separated by religion, political allegiances, national identities, and for the most part living physically apart, suspicion and lack of trust are deep, and it is this trust which must be built by both communities whose identities are changing and future together still evolving.
The most recent 'troubles' started in Northern Ireland in 1969, the root of the conflict being social, economic, political, historical, religious. Tragically, instead of solving our problems through the democratic process, violence erupted and continued for almost 30 years. The Good Friday Agreement, signed on 10th April, l998, set out a framework of political initiatives which addresses many of the contentious issues, and a framework of co-operation and partnerships, which opened up the possibilities of better relations between the two communities in the North, the two parts of Ireland, and between Ireland and Britain. The implementation of the Good Friday Agreement continues. However, the current situation of direct rule from London is unacceptable and it is to be hoped that there will be a devolved government and power sharing executive soon.
It has to be acknowledged that, though we have come a long way, we have a great deal further to go, but we know now that the 'armed struggle' is over, the long outstanding political injustices and inequalities are being tackled, and given goodwill and a generosity of spirit and forgiveness, peace is possible.
This peace process has been long and arduous but one of its most important lessons is this: Those involved in conflict resolution must never give up hope.
Another most important lesson for all of us is that violence, whether it is state violence or the violence of opposition, never brings long-lasting benefit but always brings long-lasting suffering and misery. One of the most important lessons to come out of Northern Ireland is that violence, militarism, and para-militarism, do not solve deep ethnic/political problems. They can only be solved through nonviolence, all-inclusive dialogue, and a will by people and politicians, to forgive and move forward to build a just and shared future together.
To break a vicious cycle of violence, it takes courageous civil and political leadership and people willing to take risks for peace. Being willing to take the first step, to walk the extra mile, and especially to see the humanity of the other, to see their point of view, and recognize they too are afraid, and have grievances to be addressed, helps to humanize the people and situation. Often this means that it is sometimes necessary to enter into principled compromise. Diversity is a fact of life, and it is important we respect difference and create institutions that allow for representation and equal treatment of all sectors of our diverse societies.
One of the causes of the conflict in Northern Ireland was the fact that we had majority rule for fifty years, with a minority community's basic civil rights denied. We now know that majoritarianism in divided