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Ambitions for the future.
Being selectively informed, we become selectively ignorant and increasingly unable to appreciate the extent of our own ignorance

 

by Barbara Walshe

10/6/2020: It is painful and hard to watch what is happening in the United States at the moment, not just the anger and justified outrage at the public killing of George Floyd but the rage, despair and visible pain of a people confused and divided. As we in Ireland have discovered to our cost, a sustained ignorance of, and failure to address, fundamental issues of concern leads in only one direction: conflict and violence.

So, as we watch from afar, the pain and anger in another country, what experiences can we share and what are our challenges on the island of Ireland?

At a time of attack and defend politics in Europe and North America, and the polarisation between people that has resulted, what we have learned at Glencree from over 40 years of dealing with conflict is the importance of dialogue. Dialogue means listening to understand people or groups, often with strongly held views on complex issues. It means getting to grips with the underlying issues that cause fear, anger, humiliation and anxiety, and helping people work to address these issues. It sounds easy, but too often we default to our institutionalised point of view without really listening at all.

In recent years, the constructive impact of debate and activism has diminished as public rhetoric becomes riddled by polarised assertions and demonised stereotyping. Modern day debates tend to be characterised by anger and anxiety and a free for all atmosphere, with few genuine questions being asked or answers listened to. Evidence to support a conviction is selectively remembered. Ignorance and deceit in the actions of the ‘other’ is selectively searched. Our democratic values suffer as we gravitate to people who share our views and to media representations that present us with ‘the offensive other side’. Being selectively informed, we become selectively ignorant and increasingly unable to appreciate the extent of our own ignorance.

At Glencree, a strong emphasis on listening to different traditions in conflict helps get a fuller understanding of another’s perspective and builds relationships, bridges, compromises, and solutions. This does not occur in a vacuum, it requires preparation, the creation of a safe, respectful space for all where people feel secure to explore their fundamental concerns helped by skilled facilitation.

Ireland is now home to people from 150 countries around the world. Respecting this diversity, our deeply held opinions, biases, and prejudices, of which we are often blissfully unaware, need ongoing interrogation and work. This also includes the need to question deeply ingrained institutional and organisational bias often disguised as culture or ‘the way we do things around here’.

The transition policing has made and continues to make in Northern Ireland is an example of what can be done to secure greater police legitimacy and the rebuilding of relationships with, and within, conflict-affected communities. With measures that have ranged from changing the symbols of the police, to embracing the principles of inclusion, impartiality, accountability and effectiveness, and the implementation of community policing, things have come a long way.

The events in the United States remind me of sitting next to a young African American man in a maximum-security prison in Milwaukee many years ago who could not believe that our police force was mainly unarmed and accepted by communities. We cannot take that acceptance for granted as our communities become more fractured or more diverse. A large investment will need to be made in the excellent Community Policing Service to help police remain close and connected to our new communities and increase their sense of inclusion and belonging.

“If we cultivate the habit of considering both—or even several—sides of a question, as [Nelson] Mandela did, of holding both good and bad in our minds, we may see solutions that would not otherwise have occurred to us. But the reward, as we can see in the case of Mandela, is something that can fairly be described as wisdom.” Richard Stengel

Barbara Walshe is Chair of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

 

 

Recent Events & Activities

November 27, 2019
Ambassador Dialogue Briefing Series
10/9/19: Attended by 27 EU Ambassadors, the latest in Glencree's Ambassador Dialogue Series focused on the impact of Brexit on British-Irish relations and in particular a possible hard border across the island with submissions from Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Former First Minister Peter Robinson.
July 17, 2019
Glencree Annual Summer Event: Common Good Common Ground
22/6/19: Glencree's 2019 Annual Summer Event centered on the theme of ‘Common Good, Common Ground’ in which the issues and concerns of people from across the island of Ireland were examined.
May 21, 2019
Celebration of Peace during Royal Visit to Glencree
20/5/19: HRH Prince Charles returned to Glencree to unveil a commemorative poem engraving with His Excellency President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins. Leaders from cultural, educational, political and business sectors also marked this special event.

More News

June 26, 2020
OPINION: Ireland secures seat at UN Security Council table
“From Cork to the Congo, from Galway to the Gaza strip, from this legislative assembly to the United Nations, Ireland is sending its most talented people to do the world’s most important work – the work of peace” President John F. Kennedy, Address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas, 28 […]
May 23, 2020
Podcast: Introduction to Glencree
Glencree was founded on the belief that peace can be achieved through the power of dialogue. Through our podcasts, we want to get a dialogue going around the complex subject of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. 
April 2, 2020
Joint Academic Journal Update
25/6/20: 25 papers from around the world for Academic Journal by Glencree in collaboration with the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. Part of Glencrees Legacy of Violence, Peace IV project, the Journal will be launched at an Academic Seminar at NUI Galway on 26 November.
March 26, 2020
Covid-19/Coronavirus Advisory
7/5/20: Updates and arrangements following the advice of the Irish Government regarding the evolving Covid-19/Coronavirus situation.
March 18, 2020
ABC Radio Interview with Barbara Walshe
16/6/20: Glencree Chair, Barbara Walshe talks about Glencree’s work and the prospect of Irish unification in an interview with well-known Australian radio host Phillip Adams on ABC Late Night Live.
February 20, 2020
Reception for Permanent Representatives of UN Member States
20/2/20: Glencree team attend reception hosted by President Michael D. Higgins, Patron of Glencree, for the Permanent Representatives of UN Member States

June 10, 2020

OPINION: Dialogue Not Tear Gas – How the Irish Experience Can Help the U.S. Right Now

Opinion Piece
June 26, 2020

OPINION: Ireland secures seat at UN Security Council table

“From Cork to the Congo, from Galway to the Gaza strip, from this legislative assembly to the United Nations, Ireland is sending its most talented people to do the world’s most important work – the work of peace” President John F. Kennedy, Address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas, 28 […]