Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thick or Thin Integration – Deep or Shallow Peace?

Professor Brandon Hamber to give the 2013 All Children Together-Dunleath Lecture

NICIE are pleased to announce that the 2013 All Children Together-Dunleath Lecture will be given by Professor Brandon Hamber.

In his lecture, Professor Hamber will explore the challenges of building peace.

Professor Hamber is Director of the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), an associate site of the United Nations University based at the University of Ulster. He is also a Mellon Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the School of Human and Community Development, and the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Lecture will be given at Queen’s University in the Canada Room on Wednesday, 6 March 2013 at 7.30pm promptly (refreshments from 7pm)

The Dunleath Lectures were started in 1997 by All Children Together to promote public debate on the issues facing the integration of Northern Ireland school pupils.

A limited number of seats are still available. Those interested should contact NICIE on 028 9097 2910.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Integrated Education in Northern Ireland

As it currently stands 93% of children in Northern Ireland are educated in either Protestant or Catholic schools. Only 6% of children go to integrated schools.

In the film below, Professor Alan Smith of the UNESCO Centre at the University of Ulster discusses the findings of new research into integrated education in Northern Ireland. The report exposes a gulf between political thinking on education and the public appetite for integrated schools in Northern Ireland.  The report shows a clear trend in party manifestos and policy, moving away from the concept of integrated education even though there is continuing, strong public support for the idea. The report – Integrated Education: A Review of Policy and Research Evidence 1999-2012 — was written by Ulf Hansson, Una O’Connor Bones and John McCord and was commissioned by the Integrated Education Fund (IEF). 

Other Resources 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Stuck dancing at the crossroads?

Once upon a time, the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement was all about reconciliation. Its pages are filled with promises of ‘new beginnings’ and ‘dedicated to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust’, all signed ‘in a spirit of concord’. Binding commitments were given not only to purely democratic and political means but to oppose ‘any use or threat of force by others for any political purpose’. Every signatory pledged to ‘work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements’ and signed up to complex but ultimately clear constitutional arrangements: UK sovereignty which it would be ‘wrong to change without consent’; an acceptance that it is the ‘birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose’ which cannot ‘be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland’; and ‘parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities.’ Everyone supported new institutions for equality and human rights, a new Civic Forum, and initiatives for community relations, mixed housing and integrated education.

In spite of opposition from the DUP, over 70% of a very large turn-out voted ‘Yes’. After the St Andrews Agreement in 2006, the theory was that ‘small adjustments’, agreed by the governments and the parties without reference to a referendum, had allowed everyone to sign up.

Yet 15 years later talk of a shared future seems to be more unwelcome than ever.

Read the rest of the article by Duncan Morrow on 15 Years On.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Progressing Good Relations and Reconciliation

I have been meaning to post a link to this rather excellent report entitled Progressing Good Relations and Reconciliation in Post-Agreement Northern Ireland, by GrĂ¡inne Kelly from INCORE for some time.

It is now more timely than ever as it lays out some of the priorities for building reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Download the Report.

Monday, February 18, 2013

More steep hills to climb…

The controversies surrounding parading last summer, the murder of David Black and the riots over the Union flag serve as stark reminders that we are not yet a settled place. It is easy to feel despondent and believe we have made little progress when we see violence on our streets again or the angry views of our divided politicians.

Nelson Mandela once said: “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

Despite 15 years of climbing great hills since the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, our ‘long walk is not ended.’ We should, of course, take time to ‘steal a view’ of the progress we have made, and should not take that progress for granted. Hundreds of our citizens are alive today, and thousands are safe from injury and fear, because of that progress.

Read the rest of the article by Peter Sheridan on 15 Years On.

Friday, February 8, 2013

15 Years On...

I am part of a group called 15 Years On. It is a group individuals working in peacebuilding, peace research, cross-border and cross-community organisations who have come together to discuss how we might use 2013 to reflect on the successes and failures of the 15 years since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and how we might learn from those experiences to do better in the future. In late 2012 we began a year-long conversation about the progress of peace and cooperation in Northern Ireland, and about where we should go from here. We plan this conversation to take place largely online, leading to a culminating event sometime in autumn 2013. I encourage you to visit the project website,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Some lessons from Fearless Felix

Watching Felix Baumgartner free-fall from space and break the sound barrier was extraordinary. As he climbed out of his little balloon with the curve of the earth below him, I was in awe of both what he had decided to do and the sheer beauty of the earth below.

But what I found equally remarkable was his attitude. Despite the seeming madness of his space dive, he says he is not an adrenaline junkie – rather, he says, he is a ‘risk manager’. He also seemed acutely aware of his family throughout the feat, saying he was worried about dying in front of his loved ones. If you google ‘Fearless Felix’ you will find many references to his family – they are obviously important to him. He seems to have used his family’s support as a foundation rather than a ceiling for achieving his outlandish dreams.

Further, as he stepped out of the capsule, he says, all he could think of was returning home alive. The world record, or so he claims, was not his primary concern at that moment. In other words, despite his ostensibly daredevil antics, when staring potential death in the face, it was his family and his life he valued the most. This is natural, although his words and deeds got me thinking about the idea of what is important in this life.

Family is obviously one of the most vital parts of our lives. Most of us would think about them at a time of danger, whether self-inflicted or not. But the notion of family can also be twisted, especially politically. More and more politicians these days are exploiting our basic urges to want to be with and to look after those closest to us.

Returning to family values is the rally- ing cry of many politicians across the globe. Even Jacob Zuma, who perhaps cannot escape the issue of family, given the size of his, recently also called for a return to family values.

But what does this really mean? Of course, it makes intuitive sense as we all care for our families, and growing up in a supportive environment of any form is important in human development. But putting your family first can also be a selfish act.

Thinking of your family in the first instance can be reduced to doing what- ever is necessary to improve their life chances. The extreme end of this equates with exploiting or harming others in the pursuit of your family’s happiness and prosperity.

My problem with the idea of family first is that it sounds wholesome, and who would disagree. But, deep down, it feeds a very conservative tendency of focusing on you and your kin above community or society.

By evoking the family as a core social principle, politicians often allow us to feel good about doing self-centred things like supporting tax breaks for people of the same social class, or welfare cuts if one is not on welfare as well.

But, returning to Fearless Felix standing outside his diminutive space capsule with the world below, one cannot but be struck by how small we all are in this universe. As he has said: “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.” You would think this realisation would make us as a species want to be closer, to cooperate more and work together.

Yet, perversely, it seems the more we realise the expanse of the universe and all its diversity, the more we seem to retreat into our families and the little worlds we all inhabit in our day-to-day lives. With this mindset, we are easy pickings for politicians who want us to support conservative ideas, which equates with putting your self-interests before those of society. This might in the short term make each of us feel secure, but in the long run it is a recipe for social disaster.

This article by Brandon Hamber was published on Polity and in the Engineering News on 26 October 2012 as part of the column "Look South". Copyright Brandon Hamber.