Summary of "Northern Ireland: Projects of Hope in the Midst of Violence"

Summary of

Northern Ireland: Projects of Hope in the Midst of Violence

by Dave Brubaker

Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: "Northern Ireland: Projects of Hope in the Midst of Violence." MCS Conciliation Quarterly. Spring, 1988. Vol. 7, No. 2. Pp. 8-9.

Dave Brubaker talks about "projects of hope" in Northern Ireland. Those projects are directed at promoting ideas of peaceful conflict management and reconciliation. The article presents an interview with Barry Hart, who spent several months in Northern Ireland working on a project teaching mediation. He worked with schools, a juvenile offenders program, a family mediation service in Dublin, and neighborhood groups. He noticed that people have trouble in confronting those with whom they are in conflict, usually avoiding them. He and his Irish colleagues tried to create a positive view of conflict among the people, even though this was a hard task to do in the context of the violent conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. People of the two communities perceived the other side as being inhuman.

Barry Hart believes that mediation skills can promote change in people's attitudes toward each other and in the ways they handle conflict, toward mutual recognition and use of nonviolent methods. Especially, he sees a lot of potential in teaching mediation to schoolchildren going to mixed (Catholic and Protestant) schools. Mediation can help people to move beyond their positions to understanding of their interests. Barry Hart thinks that the underlying interests in the Protestant-Catholic conflict are "related to economic stability and political balancing" (p. 9). Mediation is not a certain cure, but it helps people to view conflict as serving positive functions for them and their relations with others. It provides a "safe place and space" for parties to freely communicate to each other and seek peaceful solutions (p. 9).