McAleese warns of 'middle-class peace process' in North
Northern Ireland is in danger of ending up with a “middle-class peace process” with alienated groups destabilising the project, Senator Martin McAleese has warned.
He said the recent conflict in Belfast was perhaps the first sign of this. There were people in the North “who feel that the peace process has little relevance to their daily lives, that they are mere spectators as the game of peace is played by others”, Mr McAleese told a symposium on Alternatives to Political Violence, held yesterday at Dublin City University’s Institute for Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction.
The decade of centenary anniversaries of important events in Irish history were an opportunity to consolidate peace.
“That one decade could give us a century of peace,” he said. Mr McAleese said he had lived in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation while growing up in Belfast in a Catholic family in a loyalist area. “Fading into the background, covering the badge on the uniform, not wearing the school tie except in school so as not to draw attention – anything not to be noticed,” he said.
He said there was “suspicion, nervousness and apprehension” when he first met leading loyalists after his wife’s election as president of Ireland and the process of engagement with communities in the North began.
The British government in particular turned its attention away from Northern Ireland after the peace process was put in train, said Dermot Ahern, former minister for foreign affairs.
Liz O’Donnell, former junior minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the inclusive politics when the peace process started had ended.