Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What does peace mean in the South?

Widespread relief greeted the 1998 Good Friday Agreement when over 94% of people in the Republic of Ireland voted to give up the territorial claim to the whole island enshrined in the Constitution until such time as there was a consensus to do otherwise. The desire to end the conflict was strongly endorsed in both jurisdictions, sustained by a dogged and consistent commitment to peace by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern – a fact now buried, for the time being at least, under the debris of the current economic crisis.

The Southern reaction to the Peace Process varied depending on how closely affected by the conflict you were. For those living in the border region, the disappearance of the British Army and the opening of border roads, facilitating ease of movement between towns and villages whose hinterlands and livelihoods had been disrupted by the violence, was greatly welcomed.

Cross-border cooperation in tourism, infrastructure, policing and community development, all boosted by EU Peace funding, has allowed fractured communities to pick up the pieces and start again. For many Protestants in the Southern border counties, there was encouragement to engage in public life again after an ‘eyes down, mouths shut’ policy of trying to survive in a climate of fear and intimidation in a region deeply affected by the violence across the border. Many today continue to live with the residue of that.

The further south or west you travelled, it was hard to believe that the peace process meant anything more than an escape from the nightly violence beamed into living rooms and the interminable discussions about a solution. And of course for others, their interest didn’t extend further north than Sainsbury’s in Newry or Asda in Enniskillen. For a small minority the Agreement was seen as a sell-out.

To read the rest of the article by Barbara Walshe visit 15 Years On.