By Shannon Reid
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Daniel Baker, warmly welcomed international participants of the Global Peace Foundation’s Peace Learning Program at Belfast City Hall following the four-day peacebuilding event in Northern Ireland. The delegates had spent the past week in a dynamic training conducted in partnership with Co-operation Ireland, a locally-based and far-reaching peace and reconciliation charity.
The efforts for peace produced by grassroots academic, social, and religious organizations were analyzed and used as a backdrop case study for the training. Topics included effective peace processes, conflict resolution, as well as conflict prevention and identifying early indicators of violent extremism.
The international congregation was welcomed with warm Irish hospitality, which included scones and tea followed by a tour of the Council Chambers and Great Hall. Mr. Baker was generous and candid with his time, allowing participants to engage and pose questions about his council’s efforts to establish concrete peace in the diverse city that lives with a shadowed past and a bright future.
“Sometimes we’re guilty of forgetting how far we’ve come,” Mr. Baker said, “Belfast is a changing city, and we hope to be an example to the whole world of how a city can prosper after conflict.”
Mr. Baker, 37, grew up in West Belfast and has been described as "a well-respected and grounded community activist," who has taken his "grassroots style of representation" to the role. He addressed current challenges to peace, suggesting that younger generations have inherited unresolved Post Traumatic Stress Disorder trauma from the older generation that lived through the conflict, known as “The Troubles.”
Tall barricades, originally built to divide Protestant and Catholic communities still remain, and Mr. Baker addressed that although Belfast has evolved greatly there are still obstacles to complete reconciliation.
“We’re a completely different city from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago,” he said, “but until those walls come down I won’t be completely happy.”