Tony Macauley, an independent development and management consultant, highlighted the successes and remaining challenges in Northern Ireland’s peace building project. Mr Macauley spoke at a roundtable discussion on the voluntary and community sector’s experiences with EU PEACE programmes.
In 1994, a ‘special programme for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland’ was launched by the European Union. It was called PEACE I programme, and was meant to last from 1995 to 1999. In 2000, the Berlin European Council decided that a second PEACE programme should be established for the period 2000-2006 ‘to encourage progress towards a peaceful, stable society and promote reconciliation in the region’. At the end of the PEACE II programme, a third €330m one was launched for 2007-2013 to ‘reconciling communities’ and ‘contributing to a shared society’.
From May to July 2012 in Derry, Enniskillen, Cookstown, Portadown, and Belfast, a series of roundtables — Shaping Peace — were promoted by Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) to put together the experiences of the voluntary and community sector within these programmes and their success, and to find the priorities that a would-be PEACE IV programme need to address.
After an introduction by Lorraine Boyd from NICVA, Tony Macaulay spoke about successes and challenges of the peace process:
Macaulay’s speech was based upon two reports: Paul Nolan’s NI Peace Monitoring Report and Gráinne Kelly’s Progression Good Relations and Reconciliation in Post Agreement NI, to explore ‘where we are at peace right now’ and to see the context and challenge of peace building. The author of Paperboy outlined the successes and challenges of the peace process, and stressed the importance of taking into account the so-called ‘low peace impact areas’, where there has been a lower engagement of peace activities, and to discuss the role of the voluntary and community sector in the peace process.
The successes: an increasing political stability, the reduction in levels of violence, the transformation of policing, the increased contact and trust across sectarian divide, and the new confident and neutral urban culture, which has led to Northern Ireland hosting several events such as the MTV European Music Awards 2011 or the UK City of Culture 2013. The challenges: a frustrated political strategy for reconciliation, segregation in social housing and schools, the remaining threat of paramilitarism, or the impact of the recession in Northern Ireland, among some more.
In the subsequent workshop discussion, people were asked to talk about the success of the previous peace programmes, their problems and challenges, and the priorities of a new peace programme. Many ideas were expressed, but at the end of the day the general feeling was that there’s a lack of agreement among all of them, which supports Macaulay’s words, “There’s a lack of clarity over what works in building peace.”