Peace practitioners discuss the peace process in Northern Ireland with Northern Peacebuilders podcast

Northern Peacebuilders | NICRC

Northern Peacebuilders podcast interviewed four local peace practitioners to discuss Northern Ireland and the future of peacebuilding in the region. The hour-long live event formed part of an overall project which also includes two further in-depth episodes broadcast on local television. The aim was to bring together a “plurality of voices on the topic of peacebuilding.”

The Community Relations Council supported the project through its CR/CD Small Grants Scheme.

The Northern Peacebuilders podcast host, Allan Leonard, took the lead on the live event to speak with Gerard Deane, Dympna McGlade, Michael Doherty and David Robinson. Each had a unique take on what it means to be a peacebuilder, as well as what the future of the sector might hold.

Their unique and varied pathways into the vocation often provide crystallising moments and deep insight into what it means to dedicate your life to the profession. As does Allan’s very own journey:

“I developed an interest in the Northern Ireland peace process when I was a student in advance of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, when I wrote to then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald to learn more about his efforts,” Allan explained. From there, Allan managed a local charity promoting public community relations policy.

He then went on to co-found Shared Future News, an online publication of news, research and stories about peacebuilding in Northern Ireland and beyond. The platform is an ongoing chronology of the peace process, and has also produced a book, with support from the Community Relations Council, entitled What Northern Ireland Means to Me, which formed part of the events of the Northern Ireland centenary. 

Shared Future News produces the Northern Peacebuilders podcast – which Allan hosts – to explore the personal and professional motivations of peacebuilding practitioners.

“Our vision is a shared Northern Irish society where peace is improved by reporting and storytelling,” Allan said. “Our objective is to provide depth and context to peacebuilding activities in Northern Ireland and the border counties.”

Personal and Professional Experience

Sharing the personal and professional experiences of peacebuilders in Northern Ireland is a key goal of Northern Peacebuilders.

“It was important to get a plurality of voices not only to reflect a demography of experience — when their vocation started, gender perspectives, age differences — but to compare and contrast learning and attitudes,” Allan said, “For example, in our sample so far, individual peacebuilders entered their work from various backgrounds, yet most have concluded that peacebuilding is primarily about developing relationships.”

The importance of developing lasting relationships is a theme that recures often and is seen as key to building permanent peace within the region.

“I see the future of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland as a mass effort reaching beyond practitioners and academics,” Allan began. “At Shared Future News, our ambition is to increase awareness and interest in peacebuilding work to a wider audience. For example, we aim to inform policy and decision makers with our coverage of shared learning events from experts local and abroad.”

Although the Northern Peacebuilders podcast is currently a volunteer effort, the Community Relations Council’s Small Grants Scheme enabled the production of the live event and studio television interviews. Allan said: “The funding for the events increased awareness of our work at Shared Future News, but more importantly of those who are actually doing peacebuilding work in the field. CRC’s support helps keep the conversation going.”

Live Video Production

Producing a live in-person recording of an hour-long event is not without its challenges, and Allan has provided insight into the process for other community and voluntary groups that might be considering the same.

“A challenge of running any live event is all of the variables on the day – it can be stressful,” Allan said, “but, as ever, good planning helps the event go smoothly.”

Allan would not recommend trying to do everything in-house. In fact, there are many resources currently available that can be tapped into for free, or at a discounted rate:

“There are good audio-visual and event management companies out there,” he said. “I would recommend those who provided us with their services – Accidental Theatre for their whole package (in-person event management and live stream, and video recording production); and Northern Visions, which is purposely set up to broadcast community-based news.”

Accidental Theatre facilitated the recording and broadcast of the live one-hour event with everything included for a set price. Northern Visions facilitated the recording and broadcast of the two half-hour studio interview specials for free, as part of their commitment to providing community television.

Allan also said to be fully aware of what you ultimately wish to convey with the finished product.

“Think of the message you want to convey,” he said, “what interview format you think you’d like, and your desired participants, then reach out to some media production professionals to see if they can deliver the goods.”

For example, Allan decided on both a live-stream format and a series of TV interviews for a very specific reason.

“We decided to video record both the live stream and TV interviews so that those who weren’t able to attend the live broadcasts could watch them later,” Allan said. “CRC funding enabled us to have professional quality productions, and at good value too!”

Further Info

Listen to the Northern Peacebuilders podcast.

Find out more about Shared Future News.