Tuesday 16 January 2018

Conflict centre marks crucial Kennedy role

Don Lavery

THE legacy of the late Senator Ted Kennedy and of his commitment to Ireland, as well as the country's own role in peacekeeping and conflict resolution, have come together in the opening of Ireland's first centre for conflict intervention in NUI Maynooth.

According to Professor John Hughes, president of NUI Maynooth, the university has developed a leadership position in mediation, and conflict intervention in recent years, and the centre "will specialise in conflict resolution, mediation, leadership and civic engagement -- all areas that were dear to Senator Kennedy throughout his political life."

A new Edward M Kennedy building will complement the John Hume building already on campus.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Senator Kennedy's sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, a former US ambassador to Ireland, attended the establishment of the new centre recently.

Professor Hughes said: "NUI Maynooth is extremely pleased to be involved in this initiative to honour the memory of Senator Kennedy. His invaluable political legacy is that of a facilitator and mediator, healing wounds and achieving consensus, and his achievements still reverberate in his home country, throughout the island of Ireland and further afield."

Forty students are graduating this year from master's and diploma courses in mediation and conflict intervention through the School of Business and Law at NUIM. For the past two years, lawyers, social workers, gardai and a host of other professionals have been learning the valuable process of mediation through these programmes.

Delma Sweeney, programme director, said: "Mediators work in a wide variety of specialist areas and all of these are taught on the courses, such as couples who are separating and who need to make plans for their future and for how they will continue to parent their children together, or in workplace disputes where there has been an allegation of bullying.

"Sometimes people feel they have no alternative but to take the adversarial route without realising that the consequences of making a complaint or of going to court are so stressful and have far-reaching and difficult consequences. Mediation can help the people involved to find a way to have a view of the other's position and work with each other."

She added: "Ireland has something special to offer and give to the world in the practice of conflict resolution. We have one of the few peace accords that has held over time, the Good Friday Agreement.

"Our Army has long had a peacekeeping role in the world. Irish aid agencies have been intervening in war-torn places internationally for many years."

Sunday Independent

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