Professor and Director of the MA Conflict and Coexistence Programme at Brandeis University
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
The other lesson is don't think you have to be neutral, because you aren't. You really aren't. Not if you live in Northern Ireland. You either aren't or you're not seen as, and I can tell you that put under pressure you won't be either. We found it much better to ditch that. You know, there were odd, wonderful people like John Paul and Bill Ury who'd come in who had a perspective that was from the outside and could. The rest of us, by and large, and this is one of the biggest breakthroughs we had, we didn't ask for neutrality, we only asked that they would respect a certain kind of process of dialogue. That was all and they only had to respect it for the day they were doing it or the few days they were doing it, and gradually the doing of it actually changed many people's own perspective on it.
So we had two advantages, we got loads more mediators, we called them co-partials when we had two, from each side, doing it. They themselves became people who could facilitate discussions everywhere. There's huge credibility for these people. Put it like this, we had a lot of problems in the workplace because we had (???)s and emblems and people were being shot dead over all these emblems, but a lot of our facilitators who would come from deep working class or working men backgrounds who were able to go in and say, "okay lads, let's sit down". Much more credibility than the people who came who were in a way protected from the conflict because the areas they lived in were not being bombed. I just feel we are incredibly proud of these skills that have developed for so many. So I suppose that's another one; don't think you have to be neutral.