“Peace offers little for NI women and children”: Mediation Northern Ireland
by Lise McGREEVY for Northern Ireland Foundation
6 January 2014

“The vast majority of today’s conflicts are not fought by nation states and their armies, rather more often by gangs, warlords and paramilitaries using small arms and improvised weapons. In Northern Ireland in 2014, communities are continuing to suffer the impact of violence in many parts of society, with peace dividends producing little in improving the lives of women and children.”

These are the strong views of Mary McAnulty, Mediation Northern Ireland, speaking after a group viewing of the a documentary film on Columbia (part of the series, Women, War and Peace, shown at the organisation’s headquarters. This was a popular series on the USA TV channel PBS (akin to our BBC) and generated a panel discussion at Harvard University.

The film was shown from ‘the people’s’ viewpoint, in particular the lives of three women who dared to stand up against the “dictatorship government” and the “Aguilas Negras”, the paramilitaries who had “murdered” locals to “keep them living in fear and control”.

According to the film, the women’s fear evolved into courage, as they tried to help the locals in their fight against being forced off their land and thrown into a life of displacement by the government and militaries, who want to sell the mining rights to global corporations, whose profits would literally be a gold mine for all concerned, except the poorest owners whose only form of income was from mining on this land.

The women set wheels in motion, getting ‘legalled-up’ and fighting their corner against the illegal displacements. They met with government officials and then gained the help and trust of international industries that wanted to mine for the riches that Columbia offered.

According to Mary the series challenges the conventional view that war and peace are men’s domain, and that war and peace are two vastly different entities and that violence leaves once peace agreements are made.

She said: “Through offering glimpses into other contemporary global conflicts, and stories of how certain individuals took a stand against violence without knowing where that stance was leading to, is certainly food for thought and exploration.”

She added: “Some of the conversations after the films have provoked interest in questioning how does fear become courage? How do you make a stand when you know — through experience or witness — that there is violence and intimidation? What can you use to resist violence peacefully and forcefully? How do you create a movement from a single thought one has in one’s kitchen? What holds me back from taking a stand?”

According to Mary, as an island people, Northern Ireland and Ireland have tendency to become “insular in our thinking and outlook”.

She said: “This series has allowed people to reflect on other parts of the world, feel the pain caused by the impact of war there, and recognise the common humanity. This mirror into other situations allows for a new conversation on the current situation in Northern Ireland.”

Stefania Gualberti and Mary McAnulty (Mediation Northern Ireland); photo (c) Lise McGreevy
Stefania Gualberti and Mary McAnulty (Mediation Northern Ireland); photo (c) Lise McGreevy

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