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Good Friday Peace Agreement: History of the Troubles (Part 1)

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Date and time
Friday, October 15, 2010

Panelists focus on the dynamics of moving toward peace over time from various “points of view,” the (mostly Catholic) Irish Republican paramilitary opposition and the broader, Irish Nationalist community as well as the (mostly Protestant) Loyalist paramilitary along with the broader Unionist community, and, finally and hopefully – the Irish government perspective. The speakers discuss the unfolding dynamics of the conflict’s end and movement toward peace in light of their own experiences or analyses, the focus will account for how different groups’ goals, reasoning, and (in)ability to overcome any internal divisions affected the prospects of peace and of drawing violent parties into mainstream political institutions. Such a focus will help to reveal and highlight the dynamics of dissention within groups that have been conventionally treated as monolithic political actors, as well as how these internal divisions affected the broader conflict between groups that played out more openly over time. These divisions are particularly and acutely salient to both Northern Irish and Irish politics today, with the recent decomissioning of Loyalist groups, the first security force member killings in more than a decade (by Republican ‘dissidents’), the growing number of Republicans and Nationalists becoming disillusioned with Sinn Fein’s ability to effectively negotiate its agenda through Stormont, and the scandal that threatens First Minister Robinson’s position – and therefore the Executive itself. Finally, each speaker discusses how the case of the conflict in Northern Ireland can help us to understand conflict and the chances for peace elsewhere, with panel member(s) expanding on this issue. The aim of the event is to understand and learn from the end of a real-life conflict, including how various points of view were accommodated, while achieving peace and reconciliation. The goal of that understanding is to examine how lawyers might apply similar methods to the practice of law, including negotiations among individuals or groups, arbitration, mediation and other circumstances.

Kevin Downey was born and grew up in Derry, Northern Ireland. He attended St Columb’s College Derry (1967‐1974). Mr. Downey obtained his B.A. in Legal Science and his M.A. from Trinity College, Dublin (1975‐1979). He interned at the offices of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy in the summer of 1978 and worked on Sen. Kennedy’s challenge to President Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980. Mr. Downey qualified as a solicitor in 1980 and began working as a solicitor in 1981. In 1983, Mr. Downey started his own firm in Derry. In 1973, Kevin Downey joined the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Northern Ireland. He worked as a volunteer in general party activities and election campaigns for many years. In addition, from 1993 to 1995, he was a member of the SDLP Central Executive. Mr. Downey acted as secretary to Pennyburn Branch Derry. In addition, he acted as joint election director for Foyle Constituency in the Local Government elections of 1993.
Roy Garland was born and reared in an evangelical home on Belfast's Loyalist Shankill Road. He left school at 14, but spent two years in full‐time training at the evangelical interdenominational All Nations Christian College near London, returning to Belfast when his father died in 1962. There, Mr. Garland began to attend Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church and participated in various protests and rallies in Belfast. He was actively involved in Ulster Unionist Party politics, demanding that Unionist politicians reject Westminster interference in areas legitimately within local jurisdiction. By 1970, however Mr. Garland began questioning his former views. In 1973 he was an undergraduate at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) reading Social Science. He completed a Certificate in Ecumenics through Ulster University and the Irish School of Ecumenics during the mid 1980s. By 1991 Mr. Garland had completed a Masters Dissertation on the "new thinking" within the leadership of the modern Ulster Volunteer Force, which was turned into a booklet by the Progressive Unionist Party for distribution among Loyalists and others wishing to understand Loyalism. By the mid‐1990s Mr. Garland became involved in the "Shankill Think Tank," discussing a way forward for the Protestant working class. During 1995 he began, and continues, a weekly Monday Column with the nationalist Irish News. That same year he became a founder member and co‐chair of the cross‐border/cross‐community Guild of Uriel based near Dundalk and promoting dialogue, mutual understanding and accommodation. He again became active in the Ulster Unionist Party by the early 1990s and was the first, and virtually only,Unionist to address the Dublin based Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. For this he was disciplined by the UUP but managed to remain a member. The Union Group later sought an inclusive agenda fostering healing and reconciliation within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. Mr. Garland organised meetings of the Union Group with senior Irish and British Government Ministers. He was part of an organising committee drawn from the Union Group for "East Belfast Speaks Out," believed to be the first such panel discussion organised by Unionists. The panel consisting of Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein MLA), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP MP, MLA), Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty International) and Laurence Robertson MP (Ulster Conservative and Unionist Shadow Minister for NI). It was chaired by Belfast's Lord Mayor Naomi Long (Alliance Party MLA). Mr. Garland is author of a biography of former loyalist leader Gusty Spence (2001) and has contributed articles to various publications on politics, history and religion. He is currently working with a project involving IRA Veterans of the 1956‐62 Operation Harvest Border Campaign entitled, “Then and now, a future without political violence?” Mr. Garland has worked with former UDA and UVF prisoners and activists for decades and is a commentator on radio and television. He is also a regular speaker at meetings involving people from all backgrounds in Ireland north and south.
Matt Morrison grew up with Martin McGuinness as well as several other, nonpublic and top‐level leaders of the IRA. The eldest of seven children, Mr. Morrison was born in Derry, Northern Ireland’s second‐largest city, in 1955. He grew up in a two‐bedroom house with his aunt, grandmother, parents and siblings. As was the case in the rest of Northern Ireland, only one adult per house had the right to vote. Mr. Morrison attended St. Columb’s College, a prestigious boys’ school that has produced several Nobel Prize winners, including the 1998 Peace Prize co‐winner John Hume (whom Mr. Morrison personally knows) and the poet Seamus Heany. Just 16 years old, Mr. Morrison attended a civil rights march with his father. After 13 unarmed protesters were shot and killed by British paratroopers, it came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” After the march, with dozens like him who had witnessed firsthand the protest and shootings, he joined the IRA. As a university student in 1975, Mr. Morrison was arrested and sentenced on political charges by a “diplock” (non‐jury) court. He was subjected to interrogation methods which left him with permanent hearing‐loss in one ear. Despite his young age, while in prison, Mr. Morrison was appointed one of the highest‐ranking IRA officers, and he conducted countless meetings with British and Irish officials ‐ at their request ‐ as well as with infamous, top‐level Loyalist paramilitaries. Upon his release in 1985, Mr. Morrison came to the U.S. and married an American citizen. In the mid‐1990s, CBS Television produced a documentary featuring the legal struggles he faced living openly as a former IRA member. The Immigration and Naturalization Service categorized him, and all other former IRA members living in the U.S., as deportable. Mr. Morrison led meetings with Gerry Adams, former IRA leader and president of its political wing, Sinn F´ein, during negotiations leading up to the Good Friday Agreement. That Agreement conferred a unique political/legal status on former IRA members living in the U.S., one which guarded against their deportation and conferred a host of rights upon them. Now a nurse and part‐time Gaelic language teacher, Mr. Morrison lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He often speaks on the conflict and peace process in Northern Ireland, on immigrant civil rights issues at universities, including a 2008 issue at Case Western Reserve, and for non‐profit organizations, such as Children for Peace in Ireland.
Bonnie Weir is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign. She studies the dynamics of violence employed by nonstate, politically‐motivated groups, with a particular interest in their potential decision to adopt peaceful strategies. Along with her substantive interests, Bonnie has focused on methodological shortcomings in the study of civil conflict, insurgency, and terrorism in the social sciences. Her concerns about several approaches that are typically used to test predominant theories on non‐state political violence lead her to conduct an extensive, interview‐based study of the case of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. She combines individual narratives with local‐level, “spatial” information to enhance our understanding of the often complex and personal nature of conflict and peacemaking among divided communities. Bonnie has worked with Children for Peace in Ireland and other groups in Northern Ireland and the United States whose goal is to help fully implement the institutions stipulated by the Good Friday Agreement and which tend to be lead by ex‐combatants.