Friday 9 December 2016

Peace in the North is now a global template for conflict resolution

Mary Fitzgerald

Published 16/05/2016 | 02:30

President Obama:
President Obama: "One of the most encouraging things in Northern Ireland is children starting to go to school together and having a sense that we’re all in this together, as opposed to ‘it’s us against them’"

The Good Friday Agreement turns 18 this year, its landmark birthday reminding me of how often I see the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process echo in other contexts. The simple act of talking to your enemies, of looking for and finding common ground that can eventually turn the guns silent, can never be underestimated.

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I remember when the agreement was signed and voted on in 1998. I was a student in Belfast at the time. I recall the naysayers who pointed out flaws in the deal, the critics who said it would never work. Yet all these years on, the agreement holds. It still underpins Northern Ireland's fractious politics. And the process that birthed the agreement acts as a model that other conflict-torn countries can learn from.

During his recent visit to London, US President Barack Obama spoke at length about how the world can learn from the story of how peace was made - and is still maintained - in Northern Ireland.

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