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Initial Considerations for the Development of a Peace III Programme

10 December, 2003


The Need for a Peace III

There is a continued need to support peace building, reconciliation and conflict resolution in Ireland. Sinn Féin is working towards a peaceful and pluralist Ireland which recognises and celebrates diversity.

Sinn Féin has wholly committed itself to the process of conflict resolution. National reconciliation is an essential ingredient in that process. We believe that the claim of the British government to sovereignty over a part of Ireland is a denial of national and democratic rights and an impediment to the process of national reconciliation.

We support the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in all its aspects. This Agreement recognised that fundamental change is required in terms of redressing inequality and developing new political structures. The Agreement also recognises the potential for further constitutional change. There is a critical need for this process of change to be managed.

We offer this paper as some initial consideration for the development of further support for peace and reconcilliation. We intend to engage with others on the basis of this paper as our contribution to what must be the widest possible debate on the way forward.

Within Europe there exists considerable experience in managing and supporting the process of constitutional change and conflict resolution. How we on the island of Ireland manage this process in the coming period will contribute to the stability in Ireland and therefore the European Union as a whole. Following the 2004 enlargement process it will also enhance the ability of the European Union to deal with possible future change.

Through its Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and its contribution to the International fund for Ireland, the EU has given practical support to this process by promoting equality, encouraging links between north and south, and enhancing opportunities for reconciliation. These programmes served to enhance the outworking of the Good Friday Agreement by assisting community development, redressing the historical imbalances in parity for Irish and English speakers and through youth initiatives, and cultural and educational projects. Importantly, the European Union's peace initiative contributed significantly to the development of policy and community harmonisation across Ireland.

We commend the European Union for its support for the peace process in Ireland, particularly through the Peace I and Peace II programmes. However, we are mindful that the full potential of the Peace programmes was undermined by the suspensions of the political institutions by the British Government.

While progress on the political process has been slow there is a continued need to build national reconciliation. We believe further European Union support, to underpin the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, will help to cement the emerging peace as we build a bridge out of conflict towards a lasting peace.

The progressive support of the European Union's member states for the transition of Irish society to a peaceful and economically prosperous region of Europe must be acknowledged and encouraged. The eradication of borders and the support for building a sustained economy within the context of an all-island entity can be enhanced by the various stakeholders.

European Peace programmes should support the preparation for managed rather than unmanaged change e.g. by further enhancing equality and social inclusion, developing common policies north and south, developing models for civic engagement on changing policies, providing training in human rights, developing twining initiatives across Ireland and promoting Irish language projects.

The Basis of Peace III - National Reconciliation

The process of national reconciliation (from here on referred to as reconciliation) will develop from the successful elimination of inequality, promotion of diversity and recognition of the inter-dependence of all individuals and communities across Ireland.

There is clearly additional work to be undertaken in the north of Ireland and across the island.

At the outset of any approach on any possible Peace III we must ask the question, 'who is to be reconciled with whom?'

This should cover the totality of relationships, but focus particularly on:

  • Communities of people on the island of Ireland
  • Communities in border counties where relations and local economies have been fractured by partition
  • Communities who continue to suffer as a direct result of the high level of military presence
  • Communities within the north of Ireland; and
  • Relations between the institutions of the state and those communities which traditionally have been alienated and marginalized from those institutions

There is a particular need for the inclusion of those who have suffered directly as a result of the conflict, including those who regard themselves as 'victims', those who regard themselves as 'survivors' and those who have been imprisoned as a result of the conflict. We must also develop relations with communities abroad which have an experience of conflict and conflict resolution.

A necessary step in developing national reconciliation and repairing the relationship broken by partition is the establishment and promotion of all-Ireland networks. Such networks could have a social, educational or practical aim. Many restrictions remain which limit all-Ireland working. In line with the ethos of European inter-dependence and the development of national reconciliation there is an imperative to remove such restrictions.

The Basis of Peace III - Tackling Inequality

The development of the peace process and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement has placed the issue of equality centre stage. While advances have been made additional work is required to redress 80 years of discrimination and inequality. We would hope that measures would be developed to complement the commitments contained in the Good Friday Agreement and promote diversity across communities.

Reconciliation cannot be built on the basis of inequality. Therefore any Peace III programme must focus on redressing the imbalance and reducing inequality. We must create and strengthen pathways to reconciliation through social inclusion, tackling inequality in the social, economic, linguistic, political and cultural spheres. A key element of this will be community empowerment.

We need to develop ways to strengthen citizen participation and respect for human rights and redistribute social, economic and cultural power to ensure a level playing field.

This can be done through:

  • Engaging groups and communities in participatory problem-solving with regard to the regeneration of areas of greatest need
  • Involving workforces in the design of initiatives to increase the safety, security and peace of mind of groups underrepresented in that workplace
  • Strengthening community capacity in relation to the assessment of the equality impact of policies on traditionally marginalised groups
  • Enhancing the capacity of marginalised groups to monitor outcomes and improvements in their status and changes in attitude and practice on the part of public officials and institutions
  • Combating poverty and social exclusion in the areas of greatest disadvantage and where the conflict was most intense over the last 30-40 years
  • Recognising and supporting the role of the community and voluntary sector and the particular role played by these sectors in the maintenance and development of the Irish speaking community
  • Ensuring that community development models underpin the evolution of public administration in the North

The support could be taken on the basis of the social economy and the way in which this can be used to build an integrated structure for sustainable socio-economic development. It is also important to build social capital and to support projects of an educational nature to promote human rights.

Distribution of funding in line with objective need and social exclusion was a key success of Peace I. However there remains concern that the distribution of Peace II may not achieve the same success in targeting those communities in most need. A potential Peace III fund should explicitly target resources to those communities in need using objective criteria.

Reconciliation, Diversity and Inter-Dependence

To date the process of cross community reconciliation and integration within the six counties has focused largely on social contact between communities across the island and on supporting integrated education. There is a need to move beyond this limited view and reflect the inter-dependence of communities across all of Ireland and embed the process of integration through measures taken to support integration in housing and in the workplace.

Special measures should be supported which promote integrated private housing and tackle barriers to the development of integrated social housing.

Measures should be supported and developed to increase employment mobility and overcome the chill factor. These could include increased and special transport links, targeted training initiatives, recruitment targets, and diversity training including language diversity in the workplace. Measures which enhance and promote the use of the Irish language by communities, business and civic and governmental institutions should also be supported.

Process - learn the lessons of Peace I and II

The process of designing any Peace III needs to be inclusive. Indeed such an inclusive approach to the design of the programme measures could be a beacon for the type of participatory models of preparing for change which we have advocated in this paper. There are lessons to be learnt from Peace I and Peace II in this regard and recommendations for the introduction of Peace III.

There is need for a much more 'hands-on' role from the European Commission in any Peace III programme to ensure maximum benefit in terms of developing new ways of working and overcoming fear of and alienation to the process of change.

There will be a need for greater openness and transparency. The lessons of Peace I and Peace II have shown that the lack of transparency leads to suspicion and the potential for fraud. This could be aided by an inclusive process in the design of any new Peace III programme. Restoring the more inclusive oversight mechanisms used in Peace I, such as the Consultative Forum, will also help in this regard.

There is a need for less bureaucracy and complexity in the application and processing procedures. This has had the tendency of giving preference to the larger more business focused projects while prejudicing smaller groups many of whom would be in need for priority support for peace building in disadvantaged areas.

The bureaucracy also led to confusion in the administration of the funds and a frustration by projects on the time lapses and gaps involved in finance distribution. We need to get the money out.

With Peace III there is a need for the special inclusion of the Irish speaking community and the promotion of the Irish language as a means of encouraging reconciliation.

The principle of 'Social Inclusion' should be central to any programme. The priority of economic initiatives over social inclusion in the Peace I and Peace II programmes served to take away from the potential of the Fund to benefit those areas which have been subject to inequality in distribution of public resources or have suffered disproportionately due to the conflict. In the outworking of Peace III economic sustainability should not be the over-riding criteria.

The support for core organisational costs, and not just the project costs, should be provided for initiatives which do not receive core funding from elsewhere. This is to ensure that the activities of the projects are placed within a context of development and not isolated as single unsustainable projects.

The length of the programme should be seven years and not five. This would enable funding and projects to be strategic, and give them time to become embedded within the socio-economic system of the region.

ß Further to this there should also be an aim to complete particular post-conflict tasks, such as the reintegration of prisoners back into community and family life and victims initiatives.

ß The conflict over the past 30-40 years in Ireland has engulfed many aspects of social and economic as well as political life on the island of Ireland. As a central aspect of the process of national reconstruction there is a need to promote and encourage peace and reconciliation on an all-island basis. Furthermore, there is a need to address issues arising from the conflict in the 20 bottom counties.

ß Within the institutional supports of the European Union, the Peace III programmes should encourage innovative and appropriate management for the transition from conflict. It should be externally looking, externally linked to the family of rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes run by the external affairs directorate of the Commission. In this Peace III should continue to be a special programme, and not part of the general Community Support Framework

ß Finally, given the difficulties faced by the communities and projects in the 'gap' that was left between Peace I and Peace II, it is imperative for the continuation of many of the projects working on peace and reconciliation that there should be no 'gap' period between Peace II and Peace III.

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