Friday 23 February 2018

New conflict centre to honour Kennedy role as Northern peacemaker

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen announced the creation of a conflict resolution centre in honour of the late Ted Kennedy yesterday -- but he doesn't know how much it's going to cost.

The centre is the latest initiative to be launched by the Government to commemorate those who played an active role in the peace process in the North. It is already funding the "Tony Blair chair" in a British university (cost: €4m); the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund (cost: €20m over several years); and an Irish Aid partnership with the foundation set up by former US President Bill Clinton to improve HIV treatment in Lesotho and Mozambique (cost: €16m).

It is understood that Mr Cowen has already given a commitment to provide funding for the Kennedy Centre for Conflict Intervention, which will be based at NUI Maynooth. But a spokesman for Mr Cowen said the final cost was not yet known.

"All that is still being scoped and worked out," he said.

Mr Kennedy (77) died in August last year, after a lifetime of working for progress in politics, particularly the peace process and the cause of Irish emigrants in the USA.

At Government Buildings yesterday, Mr Cowen met the late senator's sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, who served as US Ambassador to Ireland.

He also met the late senator's wife, Victoria, and members of the Kennedy family. Although he did not take questions, he released a statement afterwards saying he was delighted to announce the establishment of the Kennedy Centre for Conflict Intervention.

"The centre is a further acknowledgement of Ted Kennedy's immense commitment to Ireland, in particular his role in helping to bring about peace in Northern Ireland," Mr Cowen said.

The funding may be used to construct a new Edward M Kennedy building in the university to house the centre -- which will be accommodated temporarily in another building. One of the key figures behind the project is NUI Maynooth school of business and law head Professor Robert Galavan.

He said that work on setting it up had been ongoing for the past two years after the Kennedy family agreed to back it.

"It fits well with what Ted Kennedy would have wanted. One of the family said this was something he would have been proud to have done in his name -- he was a man of peace and of civic engagement and of the community," he said.

The centre will have a broad focus on helping to train people to solve community and family disputes as well as high-profile international conflicts. It is designed to complement some of the existing work being carried out in NUI Maynooth, which already has 40 students completing masters and diploma courses in mediation and conflict intervention.

It will be headed by former Irish Congress of Trade Unions boss Peter Cassells, who attempted to solve the dispute between Shell and concerned locals in Rossport, Co Mayo, over the Corrib Gas field.


Prof Galavan said he hoped the new centre would develop the expertise to be able to intervene in such disputes in the future, as well as equipping the likes of gardai, nurses and community workers with improved conflict resolution skills.

"It actually is hinged around people who have an understanding of conflict in its various guises around the world," he said.

Irish Independent

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