I participated in a workshop held at the Institute of Governance, Queen’s University Belfast, organised by Dr Audra Mitchell, Research Fellow, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, University of St Andrews.DISCUSSION QUESTIONS Theme One: Transformation Possible themes to discuss: policies such as a Shared Future and PEACE; community work/projects; regeneration projects; interfaces; conflict transformation initiatives; ex-combatants and victims.
- What are the most prevalent types of transformation in your neighbourhood/area/line of work? (please mention specific policies or initiatives – for example, re-imaging or interface work)
- What do these policies try to transform? Are they effective in doing so? How can we tell if transformation has taken, or is taking place?
- How are members of the community (including yourself) experiencing these transformations – are they positive, negative, fast, slow, etc?
- (How) have these transformative initiatives changed relationships between the community and a) policy-makers or the Government b) other groups or sectors of the community
- Who or what resists transformation, and why?
Theme Two: Ongoing ConflictPossible issues to discuss: interface violence; youth violence; segregated space; sectarianism; human rights; paramilitary activity.
- Has conflict been removed from Northern Ireland? Why or why not? What kinds of conflict persist alongside peacebuilding initiatives?
- How do we know today that Belfast is or was a conflicted or divided city? What signs, symbols, experiences, or activities related to conflict remain?
- What are people most worried about with regards to the legacy of conflict, or its continued presence?
- What elements of conflict affect their daily lives the most? Please give specific examples.
- How does ongoing conflict relate to peace-building, and to the policy goal of transformation?
- Importance of unequal relationship between Great Britain and Ireland
- Republican aim of “building a society of equality”
- Importance of relationship building
- Exhaustion of seeing so much of the Agreement undone
- In addition to news story, want to hear what’s being done about it
- Denial of being a part of the conflict
- Issue of participation by widest spectrum possible
- Method of conflict has changed, but causes haven’t [though everyone will never agree causes]
- Does offer of transformation create hope for the future?
- Fuzziness of “transformation”, which can mean conflict management or more ambitious change
- Risk of increased expectations, “peace promise”
- Those left out of transformation process risk feeling isolated and resentful
- Whether apathy is an acceptable normative status
- Importance of grassroots ownership of process
- Forms of resistance to transformation, from spontaneous acts to “spoilers”
- Criticism of consultation process
- Transformation is not change OF conflict but change FROM conflict [inferring a mutually dependency/responsibility for the conflict: a challenging acknowledgement in itself?]
- Negative peace, i.e. peace being the absence of violence
- As Northern Ireland is not a two-tribe problem, the solution mustn’t be two-tribe in nature
- Conflict itself isn’t always bad, if it leads to sorting out an issue
- Difference between a truce and a transformation
- Difference between “peace-building” and “reconciliation” (which is more ambitious)