The Glencree Community and Political Dialogue Programme is funded by the Reconciliation Fund of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and more recently with the added support of the Porticus Foundation and The Community Foundation for Ireland. Through this programme, Glencree works with political parties and their representatives drawn from across the islands of Ireland and Britain, as well as civic society organisations and actors integral to the political debate.
The aim of this programme has evolved over the last 25 years since it first began during the peace process in the early 1990s. However, one fundamental principle remains constant: to create and sustain a process where people of different traditions, political persuasions or cultural identities can come together in confidential spaces to discuss issues that arise as disrupting factors in their relationships with each other.
The process of community and political dialogue has its origins in the early 1990’s when the political parties from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain first gathered at Glencree to discuss the emerging circumstances around the period of the ceasefire. Introduced by Glencree's Ian White and Geoffrey Corry, these early efforts in dialogue ran for over 12 years through the period of the negotiations and subsequent implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
The dialogue workshops involved the creation of confidential, safe spaces where parties and individuals returned each month to discuss relevant trends in the political atmosphere of the time. Through this process, key relationships emerged between the parties, individuals and community leaders involved.
With the formation of the Executive within the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007, the need for such intensive levels of private political engagement decreased, thus reducing the frequency of the political dialogues at Glencree. However, while many aspects of the Agreement were functioning, by 2012 the very difficult topic of Legacy - the lingering issues and pain from the past conflict - emerged as a key stumbling block to deeper reconciliation.
It became evident that healing was not going to occur unless significant and sustained efforts were made to enable those affected by conflict to share their experiences, to hear and be heard, and to have their pain and loss acknowledged by those who may have been responsible. Only then could reconciliation begin to emerge.