€25m pledged for conflict resolution


Ireland must place conflict resolution at the heart of its foreign policy, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said today.

Inspired by events in Northern Ireland, the Government has pledged €25 million annually for a Conflict Resolution Unit within the department in Dublin.

It will help to bring peace to international trouble spots. An academic centre will also be set up to develop the country's conflict resolution expertise.

Addressing the diplomatic corps in Dublin Castle, Mr Ahern said the restoration of devolved government in the north demonstrated to the world that conflict can be overcome.

"On our own island many challenges remain, not least the need to deal with the scourge of sectarianism, and to recognise and address the needs of victims of the Troubles," he said.

"Nonetheless, across the globe, Northern Ireland — Ireland as a whole — is today renowned not for conflict but for resolving conflict. "The critical role of the international community cannot be emphasised enough. "The political, moral and material support we have received has been invaluable.

"And the Government is committed to sharing our experiences so that other countries and regions can benefit from the lessons we have learned. "Northern Ireland — a local conflict — still carries with it a global resonance. "And while each local conflict is unique — with its own dynamic, nuances and sensitivities — Northern Ireland can offer hope to other places where the path to peace now seems unattainable," he said.

In addition to the new unit, the government intends setting up an academic Centre for Conflict Resolution to further develop the country's skills. New fourth level scholarships will be funded to ensure a continuous stream of academic expertise in the sector. A system of roving ambassadors to conflict regions will also be established. "We must not forget that for decades peace seemed equally unobtainable here on this island," Mr Ahern added.

"Twenty years ago, as the border was fortified, as our economy stagnated, and as terror gripped the north, I was present at some of the first meetings of, what we would come to call, the Irish Peace process. "Such was the distrust and hatred ingrained across our Island at that time, I would not then have believed that within just over a decade we would have arrived at the Belfast Agreement, the historic settlement between Orange and Green.

"And just as our journey from famine to prosperity wrought a deep determination in the Irish people to assist those afflicted by famine and want, our journey from violence to peace today makes us equally determined to assist those peoples and nations gripped by conflict," he said.