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Peace promises 'yet to materialise'

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Nobel Laureates (left to right) Leymah Gbowee, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Nobel Laureates (left to right) Leymah Gbowee, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Rigoberta Menchu Tum

PA

Nobel Laureates (left to right) Leymah Gbowee, Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Rigoberta Menchu Tum

Many promises of a better society made during the Northern Ireland peace process have yet to materialise, a conference attended by six Nobel prize winners has heard.

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

Attended by a range of conflict resolution experts as well as the six Nobel Laureates, the three-day event aims to particularly focus on the impact violence has on women and communities.

One the first day at the Culloden hotel in Holywood, a range of speakers expressed concerns that 15 years after the signing of the historic Good Friday peace agreement the goal of creating a truly shared society had not been attained.

The conference is being hosted by Mairead Maguire, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work with Peace People, an organisation set up to help end the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Ms Maguire described the discussions on the peace process as "powerful and challenging".

"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," she said. "The reality is we are stuck and 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: "How do you build a shared future? You don't do it by ignoring equality and human rights. The biggest losers in the peace process have been the poor and women. We are profoundly disappointed that 15 years on, the promises haven't been delivered."

The audience also heard the experiences of two ex-combatants in the Troubles - former loyalist prisoner Tommy Kirkham and former republican prisoner Gary Smyth.