Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland still long way from peace, declares Nobel winner Mairead Maguire

By David Young

Fifteen years after the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement, the goal of creating a truly shared society had not been attained, a conference attended by six Nobel prize winners has heard.

The fourth biennial conference of the Nobel Women's Initiative, being held near Belfast, is examining global lessons from efforts to resolve the conflict in the region.

The three-day event at the Culloden Hotel in Cultra aims to particularly focus on the impact of violence on women and communities.

The conference is hosted by Mairead Maguire, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work with Peace People, an organisation set up to help end the Troubles. “We have come a long way 15 years after the Good Friday Agreement but a lot of what was promised hasn't been implemented in terms of human rights and a shared future,” said Ms Maguire.

“We have got to break the deadlock and build on what we have achieved.”

Ms Maguire has been joined at the event by fellow Laureates Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, Tawakkol Karman from Yemen, Shirin Ebadi from Iran, Rigoberta Menchu Tum from Guatemala and Jody Williams from the USA.

One of the speakers was Patricia McKeown — regional secretary

of trade union Unison — who said the peace process had not lived up to its promises.

“How do you build a shared future?,” she asked.

“You don't do it by ignoring equality and human rights. The biggest losers in the peace process have been the poor and women.”

The audience also heard the |experiences of former loyalist prisoner Tommy Kirkham and former republican prisoner Gary Smyth.

Ms Williams, is chair of the Nobel Women's Initiative and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her work to ban anti-personnel landmines.

The conference will run until Thursday.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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