Friday, October 12, 2018

Response on Reconciliation to Consultation on Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past

Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland s Past GOV UK
The government launched a consultation on "Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past" earlier in 2018 with a closing date of October 2018. As part of the responses to the consultation myself and Grainne Kelly made a submission on Reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a stated principle and aim of the Consultation Paper: Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past (May 2018). Reconciliation is noted in the consultation document under principles, that is “the principle that reconciliation should be promoted”. Later in the document reference is made to the Implementation and Reconciliation Group (IRG) with its stated aim “to promote reconciliation and anti-sectarianism and to review and assess the implementation of the other legacy institutions proposed in the Stormont House Agreement”.

Drawing on our body of research work on reconciliation undertaken over a 14 year period the main points we make, expanded in our submission, is that although reconciliation is a stated aim and principle of the process (and the Secretary of State also affirms this in the Foreword) there is, firstly, no attempt to define what is meant by reconciliation. Secondly, the document does not outline how reconciliation might be supported and promoted. We understand that implementation might be the task of IRG members, but our research findings suggest that this might be very difficult for a number of reasons. We argue that the current proposed structure of the IRG, and the appointment process in particular, will compound the challenge of reconciliation. At the same time, we believe that the work we have done in defining reconciliation could be beneficial to the process.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

50th Anniversary Civil Rights Commemorative Dinner

Many see the 5th of October 1968 as the beginning of the contemporary conflict in and about Northern Ireland, the day when the so-called second civil rights march took place in Derry. In 2018 the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Festival took place with events held across the city. It was fantastic to host the organising committee and friends of the festival for a dinner at the Magee Campus on 7 October. It was a fitting occasion to mark this important moment in history, and to thank the committee for their work in organising the festival. To acknowledge contemporary rights issues the dinner also included inputs from the Chief Executive, Adrienne Darragh, from the Hibiscus Initiative working on contemporary slavery and trafficking issues, as well as Kay Glynn from Birnberg Peirce who worked on the Hillborough Inquest and are currently working on Grenfell inquest.

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Brandon Hamber, Paul Arthur, Kay Glynn, Pat Hume, Adrienne Darragh, Paddy Nixon, Malachy O'Neill



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Organising committee of the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Festival



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Monday, June 18, 2018

Hidden Barriers and Divisive Architecture

David Coyles, Laura Lane, Brandon Hamber and
Adrian Grant presenting at the KESS Seminar 18 June 2018
For the last three years David Coyles, myself (Brandon Hamber) and Dr Adrian Grant from Ulster University, with partners from LSE (Ann Power and Laura Lane) have been involved in a project called "Cartographies of Conflict".

On 18 June 2018 we presented some initial findings from the research entitled "Hidden barriers and divisive architecture: the case of Belfast" at Stormont at a KESS Seminar.

The policy brief, as well as presentation and video are available below:

[Policy Briefing] [Presentation] [Video]

Find out more about Cartographies of Conflict project. 



Abstract:
Hidden Barriers and Divisive Architecture: The Case of Belfast

The “peace-walls” in Belfast are particularly symbolic of the role that architecture plays in separating residential communities and a comprehensive scholarship continues to assess their effects. This presentation outlines original findings from a three-year multi-disciplinary academic research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which extends this current understanding of physical and social division. It reveals new evidence of a distinct and important, yet largely unrecognised, body of divisive architecture; an extensive range of ‘hidden barriers’ embedded in various architectural forms across Belfast’s residential communities. The presentation draws on six distinctive case-study communities that have been subjected to the implementation of ‘hidden barriers’ during the comprehensive redevelopment of social-housing during the Troubles: all six communities fall within the top ten percentile of the most deprived electoral wards in Northern Ireland with comprehensive, evidence-based examples of less visible and undervalued forms of social and physical division. The case studies provide a rigorous and reliable evidence base drawn from qualitative fieldwork that includes architectural mapping, photography, community focus groups and in excess of 100 community interviews. This data is underpinned by new and extensive archival research and analysis of NINIS statistical data. The presentation explains how emerging findings from the research reveal complex and multi-layered impacts that these “hidden barriers” have on community relations and community regeneration policy aspirations that are central to the implementation of the Executive’s ‘Together: Building a United Community Strategy’. It concludes by outlining recommendations on how these issues could be addressed within current policy frameworks, presenting the case for the development of novel and bespoke approaches to issues of concern, with a focus on housing, tourist development, and infrastructural investment.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Presenting in the Basque Country on "Hidden Barriers"

On 17 of May 2018, the team from the Cartographies of Conflict project (all project posts), along with community representatives from Northern Ireland visited the Basque Country. Part of the visit focused on presenting some of the findings of the project to date which tracks "Hidden Barriers" in Belfast (click here for more information on the project). A second part of the trip focused on learning about planning issues and social regeneration in the Basque Country.

David Coyles talking about the hidden barriers
of Belfast in San Sebastián in the Basque Country



"Guiding Architects" giving a tour of Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum in the background

Friday, May 11, 2018

Consultation: Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past


The government has now launched a consultation on "Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland's Past". The blurb reads:
More than 3,500 people were killed as a result of the Troubles. The hurt and suffering caused is still felt by people across Northern Ireland and beyond. The Troubles affected lots of different people, including victims and survivors. People have been affected in different ways.The Government is trying to find the best way to meet the needs of victims and survivors and to help people address the impact of the Troubles in the areas of information, justice and acknowledgement and help Northern Ireland transition to long term-term peace and stability. We need to do this in order to support true reconciliation and healing at a societal level.We want to know what you think. Take part in the consultation online, or scroll down for details of other ways to take part.
This consultation closes at 5pm on 10 September 2018, details can be viewed here.
Please note that the consultation has now been extended to 5pm on 5 October 2018.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland

South Africa has a new leader; the current negotiators in the North feel like a spent force               

In a strange way the South Africa and Northern Ireland peace processes have always been linked. In the 1990s both were heralded as examples of how deep divisions could be overcome, and co-operation fostered between former enemies. Other connections were more direct, such as the former ANC lead negotiator and now new South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s role in the decommissioning processes as an inspector on behalf of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

Two decades later, however, both peace processes have lost their shine.

In Northern Ireland a lot has been achieved. For example, a stable powersharing arrangement was running for a number of years, there has been substantial police reform and a dramatic decrease in political deaths.

However, the powersharing government has been collapsed for over a year. Social division also remains. Some 90 per cent of social housing is still single-identity, according to the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations. Only 7 per cent of children go to integrated schools.

Although paramilitary activity has decreased, there were 30 bombing incidents last year. Assaults, mainly on young males, by paramilitary groups have continued at roughly consistent rates for the last 10 years.
Significant gains

For South Africa, redressing decades of racial inequality has been a priority. Significant gains have been made. For example, 93 per cent of South Africans now have access to potable water compared to 62 per cent in 1994. The ANC government has built three million homes, housing 16 million people.

However, a backlog of 2.5 million houses remains. The official unemployment rate stands at a staggering 26 per cent. On top of this, the former government led by Jacob Zuma was throughout beset with serious corruption allegations.

However, unlike Northern Ireland, which has now seen a breakdown in the negotiations to re-establish powersharing, South Africa saw Ramaphosa instated as president. A wave of new-found optimism has swept the country. In his state-of-the nation address on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke of a new dawn, turning the tide against corruption and tackling inequalities, while maintaining economic stability.

The campaign to remove Zuma has been sustained over a number of years, and has included media exposés of corruption, large public demonstrations by opposition parties and civil society organisations, a series of court cases that have opened the way for the prosecution of Zuma and his cronies, and latterly a determined bloc inside the ANC and its allies to remove Zuma from office.

South Africans have a new belief in democracy and people power, and have learned first-hand the value of a free media and an independent judiciary. There is new hope in the constitution, the rule of law and the institutions developed to protect democracy.
Frustration

In Northern Ireland things feel very different. Everywhere one turns you hear people complaining about the inability of politicians to make a deal. The frustration is palpable, yet the malaise continues despite the ongoing division, Brexit and economic difficulties looming large.

Like Zuma’s administration that suffered from illegitimacy and drift, the Stormont talks have lost their way, and have lost touch with the people.

While South Africans are optimistic on the promises of Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”, Northern Ireland wallows in the tatters of what was once called a “fresh start”. So why the difference, and what can be done?

First, in South Africa there has at last been a qualitative change in leadership. In contrast, the current negotiators in the North feel like a spent force. Although some top positions in Northern Ireland have changed, those who were there at the start of the current impasse remain largely the same. One way to change this dynamic is to rework the talks structure to include all political parties, bringing in new leadership.

Second, civil society participation has been key to the new South African impetus. It is time to reignite civil society interest in the Northern Ireland peace process. New ways of people interacting with the talks have to be found. Ideas such as a citizens’ assembly have been proposed. Politicians need to encourage new civic interactions rather than corralling around the stale and secret Stormont talks.
New energy

Of course, South Africa is not a perfect or a directly comparable model. The new energy will dwindle over time if expectations are not met. Time will tell if Ramaphosa can deliver. But the current situation in South Africa reminds us once again that change is possible and the re-set button can be pushed. Hope and vitality can be restored to the body politic.

We forget at our peril that a commitment to a new vision, farsighted leadership, civil society engagement and, ultimately, the willingness to compromise is what drove the remarkable changes in Northern Ireland and South Africa in the 1990s.

Unless this genuine spirit for transformation can be reignited in Northern Ireland, as it has been sparked in South Africa recently, the risk is that the Belfast Agreement will become a rather sullied footnote in history.

Published by Professor Brandon Hamber, John Hume and Thomas P O’Neill chair in peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), Ulster University, Irish Times, 20 February 2018

The original article is available here in the Irish Times, 20 February 2019

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Resilience Focused Workshop in Sierra Leone

Project Participants in Sierra Leone
With partners Fambul Tok (Sierra Leone), Catalyst for Peace (US), Refugee Law Project (Uganda), Green String Network (Kenya), and the Research and Advocacy Unit and African University (Zimbabwe), I am managed to secure a seed grant to develop a Global Challenges Research Fund project to bring together partners to consider: "What are the internal-external framework and relationships that genuinely, in practice, support the creation of resilient communities facing ongoing and dynamic peace and development challenges, and how can communities, local organisations and international donors help to grow these?" A large inter-country meeting took place in Freetown in 22-26 January 2018. A range of new initiatives will now flow from the meeting including joint research and proposals.