“Reconciliation is postponed when people’s truth is not told” Mary McAleese Former President of Ireland
The twenty-first century has seen rising conflict and division across the world. Increasingly, people within countries are divided and these divisions sometimes lead to violent conflict. In the process, the idea of ‘truth’ is the first casualty.
Some conflicts across the world are longstanding and seemingly intractable. In the 100 years since the partition, Northern Ireland has been the site of “the Troubles” followed by a peace agreement dating from 1998.
From the outside looking in, Northern Ireland may look like a country which has solved the conflict, but in many areas this is only skin deep. The issue of identity to either the UK or to the Republic of Ireland is very much back on the table as a result of Brexit and the UK leaving the EU. Recent times have seen a return to violence on the streets and there are fears that talk of a “border poll” to settle allegiance could trigger a return to “the Troubles”.
The question that remains – centuries after the conflict began – is how to achieve reconciliation? To answer this question, We Contain Multitudes on Thursday 17 June will feature Dawn Shackels and Michael Hughes who support communities on the frontlines of conflict through their work at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.
The session will show how tackling sectarianism in Northern Ireland is relevant to issues of discrimination and racism in other parts of the world and how support for communities affected can enable progress towards reconciliation in divided societies.
Our conversation instigators
Dawn is the Director of Peacebuilding and Communities with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, an independent philanthropic grant making organisation established over 40 years ago. The Foundation strives to create a society where everyone can prosper and live in peace, encourages and supports those who want to give and empowers the local community to effect change. Renowned for its work in peacebuilding, the Foundation is an organisation that is not afraid to take risks in supporting the most marginalised, to help build peace in Northern Ireland.
Having worked in social justice and peacebuilding roles over the last 20 years, Dawn is not only highly respected but is clearly value driven, compassionate and committed to peacebuilding and a strong advocate for the most vulnerable and marginslised in society. She has significant experience of managing, developing and implementing solutions to complex and sensitive community, peacebuilding, social justice and human rights issues within Northern Ireland and internationally, most recently through her role on the Foundation’s for Peace Network.
Establised in 2006, the Foundations for Peace Network is an international network of independent indigenous philanthropic organizations working towards peace and social justice. As local activist funders we play a vital role in delivering and sustaining peacebuilding and social justice programs. With local knowledge and direct access to affected communities we are a “bridge” in helping to create relationships to achieve equity and diversity. We believe that local sustainable solutions and interventions are important to resolve conflicts, and we have been working hard to ensure not only that development aid contributes to lasting peace but that we play our part in influencing the creation of a holistic development aid system that supports the autonomy of local organizations.
Michael Hughes is Head of Building Sustainable Communities at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. He joined the Community Foundation in June 2013 and led the Space and Place Programme which supported 30 communities (geographical and of interest) to develop underused and/or difficult spaces that would connect more people and communities. He has key responsibility for the Building Sustainable Communities strategy area within the Foundation and has led on community based action support programmes including Comic Relief, Pears Foundation and Micro-Grants and is currently working on a developing a community assets/endowment programme exploring new ways of tapping into community wealth as a key driver for sustainable and locally led social change.