Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
O'hAdhmaill, Feilim
ESF-LiU Conference: In search of Peace: Dialogues between theories and practices
The Politics of Peace Building
Norrkoping, Sweden
Invited Lectures (Conference)
Optional Fields

The paper attempts to throw light on the dynamic inter-relationships which influence the process of peace-building and how dominant hegemonic discourses and policy agendas can both challenge and be challenged by that process.

It focuses on the experience of grass roots community-based approaches to conflict, transformation and peace-building in Catholic/nationalist areas of the north of Ireland, and the interaction between these and hegemonic discourses over the course of the conflict and the ‘peace process’.   It covers both historical and contemporary developments arguing that both conflict and peace-building should be viewed as part of the same process, a process within which actors contest for power, change and the acceptance of ideas and end goals. 

Conflict over access to power in the north of Ireland has, throughout its existence, been influenced by major ethno-religious divisions in the society and differing relationships between ethno-religious groups, the state, and the economy.  Grass-roots community responses to this conflict have alternated between the uses of violence, unarmed direct action campaigning and tension-reduction strategies. The response of the state has alternated between viewing community groups as something positive, providing a mediating role, during the days of the old Community Relations Commission (1969-74), and as a potential threat, during the political vetting era of the 1980s, for example. Community groups themselves could view the state and its forces as existing somewhere on a continuum between ‘enemy’ or ‘friend’ based on their view of the conflict, time and event.  Indeed the relationship between groups and state has often been dynamic, constantly changing depending on the form or extent of intervention on either side. 

With the onset of the peace process in the early 1990s, community-based groups often became incorporated into state and EU strategy geared towards conflict transformation and peace-building as the dominant discourse on the causes and solutions began to change yet again. As an uncertain ‘peace’ appears to be emerging ongoing debates around concepts of weak community infrastructure, the promotion of ’good relations’ and the pursuit of equality, social justice and human rights nonetheless continue to reflect different ideas about process and end goals and further challenges to the contemporary dominant discourse and policy agenda.

European Science Foundation