Tuesday 21 January 2020

'We have got to talk to ISIS' - Irish peace activist calls for governments to engage

Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire
Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire

Tomás Heneghan

A Northern Ireland peace activist has called on Western nations to engage with ISIS in an effort to resolve the issues in Syria and other countries effected by the group’s rise.

Mairead Maguire, who has been an advocate for non-violent conflict resolution for the past four decades, was speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline show on Monday afternoon.

Forty years ago Ms Maguire's sister's children were killed when a car driven by an IRA fugitive drove into their car.

Speaking on air on Monday, Ms Maguire urged a peaceful approach to the growth of ISIS in the Middle East, saying: “We have got to talk to ISIS."

She explained: “ISIS would not be there had we not done what we done to these countries by Western policies of militarism and war and destroying these countries and their livelihood.”

She told the show’s presenter, Joe Duffy: “Right across the world, including Russia and China, we have got a military industrial complex. We have arms sales.

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa. Photo: Reuters
A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa. Photo: Reuters

“We are arming countries where we should be helping them solve their problems of human development, poverty, education, healthcare.

“We are arming countries and these arms are going into the hands of very angry young men who want to retaliate, who want the freedom of their country and want to have a say in their country.

“We just have to use a different approach in trying to solve these problems and talk to ISIS. In Northern Ireland when we said ‘talk to the IRA, talk to anyone using violence’ people said ‘you can’t do that’ and we said ‘you wont solve the problem unless you do’. We have got to talk to ISIS.”

Maguire was also critical of the response by Western governments to other conflict areas in both the Middle East and Asia.

“People who are coming out of pain and hurt often retaliate with violence, we’re seeing that in the Middle East and all over, so we need to really talk about non-violence, talk about peace-making, talk about no wars and solving our problems without killing each other. Our message is important to the world,” she explained.

“Last year we were in North Korea. Thousands and thousands of North Korean women walked for peace, wanting peace.

“And Syria, there’s a very strong peace and reconciliation movement in Syria. People want peace. They want a peace process to happen, but we have got to support those inside these countries who are working for peace and reconciliation and insist that it will not be solved through bombing them, through killing them, through taking down their elected political leaders

“It can only be done by supporting those on the ground to work and solve the problem themselves. So I’m very hopeful that we are finding a new way of solving our problem and Syria will find it’s peace. They are very, very good people and they will find their peace when we stop trying to impose our violence and solutions on them.”

She added that lessons can be learned from peace process in Northern Ireland which saw an end to the Troubles and widespread paramilitary activity.

“Our message when we came out from that situation was ‘Look, violence won’t solve our problem. We need dialogue . We need to sit down at the table, put up the guns and solve the problems through dialogue and build reconciliation’.”

However she told the show peace needed the support of political and religious leaders in order to be successful, as had occurred in the North through the peace process.

“We need political leaders to come together in deep friendship and deal with serious political issues. And we need the churches to come together and encourage more and more integration, more reconciliation and create a non-violent culture across the community here, because if we don’t deepen the relationships, the violence is always under the surface.”

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