The Impact of Small Beginnings
By Joan Broder
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Broder, Joan. "Mediation in Ireland: The Impact of Small Beginnings." Conflict Resolution Notes. Vol. 6, No. 4. April 1989. Pp. 79-80, 81.
Joan Broder describes mediation programs that are developing in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. This summary will concentrate on her thoughts about the Northern Irish conflict and how training in conflict management can change people's perspectives on conflict.
Unionists, who favor unity of Northern Ireland with Great Britain, and Nationalists, who want unification with Ireland, for a long time were expecting the British Government to come up with solutions to their conflict. Recently, it became obvious that the British Government is unable to resolve it. Thus both communities now realize that they have to seek internal resources to find a way out of their disagreements. Recently, British military leaders, and to some extent the Irish Republican Army, accepted the idea that military force will not bring the conflict to an end. Protestants, who are currently in a difficult economic situation due to recession, are fearful for their future. Nationalists have shifted from framing the conflict as being between the IRA and the British government to accepting the million Protestants living in Northern Ireland as a legitimate party to the conflict. It also has been known that there were meetings conducted in Germany between representatives of different Nationalist and Unionist factions. A survey conducted after the news spread showed that people supported the talks. According to Broder it was the first time that the people expressed their support for negotiations. The above developments are a sign of a possible shift in conflict dynamics toward de-escalation.
Broder believes that conflict management training should encourage the Irish people to change their attitudes toward conflict, from perceiving it as a negative phenomenon which should be avoided, to understanding its positives sides for the society and individuals. Having skills in conflict management will give people more confidence in confronting the conflict constructively, rather than avoiding it. It also will teach them to be patient and recognize that resolution is a process that should take time to unfold before any agreement can be reached. Conflict resolution training is an important element of the process of creating the right environment for negotiation to begin.