The Consortium of Community Relations Council and Pobal held a Conference, “Learning the Lessons, Planning for the Challenges Ahead” on Thursday 10th December for the fourteen Local Authority led Peace and Reconciliation Partnerships in Northern Ireland and the six southern border counties.
L-R Duncan Morrow (CEO, Community Relations Council), Jim Dennison (Director, European Programme Community Relations Council), Councillor Naomi Long, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Paddy McGinn (Regional Manager, Pobal) and Jim Fitzpatrick (BBC’s The Politics Show) open the PEACE III conference at Spires Mall Belfast
Set in the distinguished Spires Mall Conference Hall in Belfast, the conference attracted guests from the partnerships, including electoral representatives, staff from the councils and partner organisations. The conference was opened by Cllr Naomi Long, Lord Mayor of Belfast, who welcomed the examination of issues such as peace and reconciliation - pointing out that these are core values of her term in office, "My theme of 'Belfast without barriers' is a great example of how we can all work to address sectarianism and racism. It is vital that the good work already being carried out and the positive relationships being built continue to help create a society where everyone feels included," she said.
The event was chaired by Jim Fitzpatrick of the BBC’s Politics Show and guests were treated to interactive dramatisations by Smashing Times Theatre Company, covering thought provoking scenarios of everyday sectarianism and addressing the point that “This is our lived experience, the same yet different.”
Speaking at the event, Dr Duncan Morrow, CEO of the Community Relations Council, said, “CRC and Pobal are keen to learn the lessons from the first phase of PEACE III and to encourage local partnerships to plan ahead in tackling Sectarianism and Racism. The support of International donars is a huge opportunity to help reconcile communities and build a shared society and we should do our best to maximise it.
The Conference provided an opportunity for Council staff and Partnership members to come together to review their progress over the year and discuss future plans. Discussions focussed on the lessons learnt to date and the challenges for the future and then open discussion with the panel, which included Pat Colgan (SEUPB), Heather Moorhead (NILGA) and Dr Tony Crooks (Former CEO – Pobal).
These Peace Partnerships have been working together under PEACE III, Theme 1.1 Building Relations at the Local Level, to implement Peace and Reconciliation plans targeted at local areas and through funding community groups and local projects.
Speaking at the event, Pat Colgan Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body commented:
“Due to the conflict, with its history of division, many sections of our society have not yet developed the capacity to deal with diversity. The EU funded Peace and Reconciliation Plans have been designed to pro-actively address this issue and are making a tangible impact. In building relations at the local level they are helping to challenge attitudes towards sectarianism and create a more tolerant and peaceful society.”
This work has been facilitated by the Consortium of Pobal and the Community Relations Council and the conference was a successful round up of the Consortium’s work for the year.
Notes to the Editor:
THE PEACE III PROGRAMME
The EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland (2007-2013) (the PEACE III Programme) is a distinctive European Union Structural Funds Programme aimed at reinforcing progress towards a peaceful and stable society and promoting reconciliation. The focus for this programme is on reconciling communities and contributing towards a shared society. The Programme carries forward key aspects of the previous peace programmes (PEACE I and II) with a continued and renewed emphasis on reconciliation.