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Paul Gosling

The challenge facing NI is to turn absence of conflict into peace

Paul Gosling


NI must be a place where people of all backgrounds can co-exist

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File photo dated 10/04/98 of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Left) and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern signing The Northern Ireland Peace Agreement.

File photo dated 10/04/98 of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Left) and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern signing The Northern Ireland Peace Agreement.

File photo dated 10/04/98 of former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair (Left) and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern signing The Northern Ireland Peace Agreement.

Peace comes dropping slow," observed W B Yeats. That is clearly true in Northern Ireland, where you might conclude we have not yet achieved a "settled peace". But what is peace? Is it merely the absence of conflict? Or should we aspire to a reconciled society? In which case, how we do reconcile communities with such deep divisions, where there are strong disagreements not only about the constitutional and legal status of "our home place", but even what we call it?

A spirit of generosity and patience is required in order to make real and lasting progress. That sense of patience needs to recognise that 22 years on from the Good Friday Agreement is only midway through our peace process. That was a view expressed by some of the 35 prominent interviewees who contributed to the Holywell Trust Forward Together podcasts, which have now been edited into the book, Lessons From The Troubles And The Unsettled Peace.

"We are in a peace process that will last at least 50 years," suggests Peter Osborne, former chair of the Parades Commission and the Community Relations Council. Simon Hamilton, who has been Finance, Health and Economy Minister, adds: "Nobody wants to hear that it's a 50-year job, but that's maybe at the low end of the scale."


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