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Supporting Reconciliation in Northern Ireland

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore with the Foyle Women's Information Network

Foyle Women's Information Network with their patchwork quilt depicting the role of women in peacebuilding in Derry

Our annual Reconciliation Networking Forum brings together a broad range of community groups and voluntary organisations whose efforts towards reconciliation between the different traditions we support throughout the year.

15 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, the challenges to stable and lasting peace in Northern Ireland in 2013 were there for all to see.

The loyalist flag protests, continuing parades-related violence and a failure to fully come to terms with the legacy of the troubles, all came to the fore during the year and became the subject of a talks process between the parties of the Northern Ireland Executive chaired by Dr Richard Haass and Dr Meghan O’Sullivan.

At the same time, there was a renewed focus from the community and voluntary sector on the progress of peace in Northern Ireland.  The 15 Years On Group came together to reflect on the successes and failures of the peace process and to learn from these experiences for the future, and partnered with us for the annual Reconciliation Networking Forum, which took place at Dublin Castle in October.

‘There are new voices challenging us all to identify and remove the outstanding obstacles to a shared and reconciled society’ - Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore

Over 150 delegates from a range of community groups across the island participated in interactive workshops throughout the day. They were tasked with envisioning the next 15 years and with identifying the challenges to making those visions a reality. A soapbox allowed a series of young speakers with backgrounds in the arts, feminism, the labour movement, professional sport, social enterprise and LGBT rights to confront participants with new perspectives.

The forum also saw a panel comprising US, UK and EU representatives discussing how the international community could support the reconciliation process today. Jonathan Powell and Liz O'Donnell shared their reflections on the Agreement and its legacy. The Tánaiste delivered the closing address.

Events like the networking forum, and the ongoing engagement by the Ministers and the Department with this sector, are helping to inform a new policy framework to guide our activities in support of reconciliation which will be published in 2014. This engagement recognises the need for peace to be nurtured at grassroots level in order to take hold throughout society.  We support this sector through our Reconciliation and Anti-Sectarianism Funds, which enable organisations to pursue projects promoting genuine and lasting reconciliation and building sustainable community relations.  You can find out how to apply to the funds here

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, T.D., giving the closing address at the Reconciliation Networking Forum: