Monday 5 December 2016

Lessons of the past prove the road to lasting peace is a long and rocky one

Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30

George Mitchell (centre), former US Senator and chairman of the Northern Ireland peace talks, is applauded by fellow recipients of the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Award – John Hume (left) and Gerry Adams (right) – along with Liz O’Donnell, then Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Paul Murphy, Minister of State of the Northern Ireland Office. The ceremony took place in Boston in December 1998. Photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
George Mitchell (centre), former US Senator and chairman of the Northern Ireland peace talks, is applauded by fellow recipients of the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Award – John Hume (left) and Gerry Adams (right) – along with Liz O’Donnell, then Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Paul Murphy, Minister of State of the Northern Ireland Office. The ceremony took place in Boston in December 1998. Photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Brussels, essentially the capital of the EU, has joined Paris, Ankara and Istanbul as the latest terrorist site. London and Madrid have also been victims in the past. Targeting strategic transport hubs to maximise destruction and civilian casualties is a hallmark of terrorism. Although on this island we have been spared the attention of Isil, we, of all Europeans, have a unique understanding of the barbarity of terrorism from the conflict in Northern Ireland.

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To be liberated from that conflict is a constant source of relief. And yet occasionally we see the remnants of it, for example, by the recent killing of prison officer Adrian Ismay when a bomb was placed under his car by republicans

Eighteen years ago, on Good Friday, we as a community, north and south, began a journey of reconciliation and political change which led to peace. It was a rocky road with many false dawns, setbacks and political realignments. Although the final negotiations leading to the political settlement took six months, it was to take nearly 10 years, until 2008, before the political institutions and power-sharing executive was to be stabilised and the IRA arsenal was finally "put beyond use". So to translate the agreement into a real peace was a slow burn and a complex challenge to the security forces north and south.

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