Creating the Conditions for Transformation from War to Peace
Making war is relatively easy. It has its own dynamic. The enemy are terrorists; criminals; psychopaths; and so on. The objective is to destroy and kill them. There can be no talking – no negotiation. It’s about victory. Making peace – and a peace that is sustainable – is much more difficult. Persuading enemies to sit down around a table and negotiate an agreement or settlement is hugely challenging. There are practical steps and processes that can help build a peace process.
It means looking beyond the propaganda, from whatever side, and seeking to identify the issues which have given rise to the conflict and which sustain it. It means looking at the position of political opponents and examining whether their point of view has merit and if it can be accommodated in some way. It means looking at the language we use to describe ourselves, our policies and goals, and how we label others. It means understanding that military victories rarely occur and that compromise and accommodation can work.
Taking political and military initiatives can help break stalemates, provide impetus, and win public support.
No Peace Without a Process
The starting point for any process of conflict resolution must be dialogue. This can be a difficult process. In the Irish peace process it took years to break this barrier. Dialogue is often viewed as a concession when in fact it is a necessity for peace. While an ability to respond to changing circumstances quickly is important your approach has to be governed by an underlying strategic approach based on core strategic objectives:
• To seek to political engage our political opponents and enemies alike
• To bring about the exercise of the right to national self-determination by the Irish people as a whole
• To establish a peace process to bring this about
• To win international support for these positions
These include the need for the process to tackle the many causes which lie at the heart of the conflict; there must be a good faith engagement by all sides, and the process must be inclusive – with all parties treated as equals and all mandates respected.
The Irish Diaspora and Peace
There are 40 million people in the USA who can trace their roots back to Ireland. Most fled to the USA because of political and violent upheaval and economic hardship and famine.
‘We perish houseless, naked, starved, with branded brow,
Dying, dying wearily, with a torture sure and slow –
Dying as a dog would die, by the wayside as we go.’
These are the words of the Irish poet Speranza – Lady Jane Wilde, the mother of Oscar – who was a regular contributor to the radical Young Irelanders publication The Nation. She recorded her testimony in verse in early Black 47 of the human cost and impact of An Gorta Mór – the Great Hunger. An event which left one and a half million Irish dead and saw millions more flee to the USA, Canada, Australia, Britain and south America
Irish republicans have a long connection to the diaspora which has consistently supported the struggle for freedom and justice in Ireland.
The role of Irish America in persuading the Clinton and subsequent Bush and Obama administrations to support the Irish peace process has been invaluable.
Other Speech Topics:
- A Peace Process in the Basque Country
- Making Peace in the Middle East
- Engaging with Cuba
- A Tale of Two Worlds: Europe and its Neighbors
Gerry Adams is perhaps the best known Irish political leader in the world today. He has been shot and imprisoned for his political beliefs. He was banned from travelling into Britain and his voice was banned from the British broadcasting media under censorship laws.
He is widely credited as one of the main architects of the Irish peace process and of the Good Friday Agreement. Mr. Adams has travelled widely. He has played a key role in creating the conditions for the peace process in the Basque country. In 2009, he visited the Gaza Strip and produced a report on the impact of conflict in that region.
The Sinn Féin leader who is a member (Teachta Dála TD) of the Irish Parliament – the Dáil - has visited South Africa, has met all of the senior ANC negotiators as well as Nelson Mandela; he has visited Cuba and met Fidel Castro about Ireland, Cuba, peace and conflict; and has spoken internationally on conflict resolution processes.
Gerry Adams is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative which he attends each year and has taken part in panel discussions on conflict resolution.
The Sinn Féin leader is also a bestselling author of 14 books. The New York Times said of him:
“One thing about him is certain: Gerry Adams is a gifted writer who, if he were not at the center of the war-and-peace business, could easily make a living as an author of fiction or fact.”
The Listener described him as a “natural storyteller, with a warm and agile wit … The writing is natural and, one might say, writerly.”
The Financial Times said of him: “Adams writes fluently and observantly.”
And TIME said: “A skillful writer with a sound intellectual foundation for his political beliefs.”