Global Peace Foundation Ireland was officially launched on July 18, 2013 in Dublin at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre, the first GPF Chapter to be established in Europe.
“Ireland has lessons to teach the world as a result of its peace accomplishments,” said GPF-Ireland Country Director Mr. Arnold Kashembe, who presented GPF-Ireland’s focus areas of community building, education, youth empowerment and community based development at the launch. “Both the Irish Government and NGOs have a keen interest in sharing lessons learned. All involved recognize that the peace job is not done and are working diligently to complete the work.”
Europe’s third largest island, Ireland is divided into two political territories, Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an independent state. Conflict between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland erupted in the 1970s and ‘80s over the political jurisdiction of the territory. Following a ceasefire in 1998, the so-called Good Friday Agreement was concluded and approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on May 22, 1998, although many of the provisions of the agreement have yet to be realized.
During the launch, GPF International President Mr. Jim Flynn presented an overview of GPF’s work around the world and explained the core principles and values that give direction to GPF’s global initiatives. GPF Vice President Dr. Tony Devine introduced GPF’s education track program, LeadIn, which he explained has a global focus on transforming school culture through GPF’s Character and Creativity Initiative.
“The Irish people and great organizations like the Tipperary Peace Convention, Cooperation Ireland and the Irish Government and others have important contributions to make to other countries as a result of Ireland’s accomplishments in the peace process and community building.”
On July 24, a GPF Ireland inaugural event was convened at the Tipperary Excel Centre in Tipperary Town. The event was facilitated by the Tipperary Peace Convention, an internationally recognized body whose prestigious Peace Awards have been conferred on public figures such as Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, and U.S. Secretary of State George Mitchell.
The inauguration drew the participation of dignitaries of Tipperary Town, including the Pride of Tipperary Miss Donna Breen and the Mayor Anna Tuohy-Halligan. Mr. Martin Quinn, the President of Tipperary Peace Convention, introduced Dr. Tony Devine and Mr. Arnold Kashembe, who presented the mission and areas of activities for GPF- Ireland and the ongoing project Linking Cities, a peace-building and reconciliation initiative that partners Limerick with the Northern Ireland city of Coleraine.
An agenda for peace
Prior to the launch, the GPF delegation met in the Irish Parliament building with Chairman Pat Breen and members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Department of Foreign Affairs oversees Irish Aid, an agency that provides assistance to some 80 countries.
The delegation also briefed the Deputy Head of Mission and two other counselors at the Nigerian Embassy in Dublin on GPF’s partnerships with interfaith leaders and traditional rulers in Nigeria, and the inauguration of GPF’s Character and Creativity Initiative in the West African country. The embassy officials expressed keen interest to work with GPF Ireland and to share the Irish experience of peace building and reconciliation with Nigeria.
GPF leaders also held strategic meetings with partners in Limerick, Tipperary and Dublin. Among the partners was Doras Luimní, a non-governmental organization working to support the rights of migrants, notably recent arrivals in Ireland from Africa, Eastern Europe and India. The delegation also met with key officers of Limerick Youth Service, a leading provider for a variety of quality programs for the young people in Ireland; local leaders in Limerick who are advancing community-based development models in divided towns and precincts in Ireland and Northern Ireland; and the Wheel, a support and representative body connecting community and voluntary organizations and charities across Ireland.
On July 19, GPF representatives visited Cooperation Ireland, the leading peace-building charity on the entire island, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Since it was established in 1979, Cooperation Ireland has created opportunities for both the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland and engaged people from both sides of the border to learn about each other’s traditions and help build a society based on tolerance and acceptance of cultural differences.
GPF leaders also toured the Catholic and Protestant areas of West and North Belfast, where large “Peace Walls” still divide communities and neighborhoods. Predating the Berlin Wall, the walls in Northern Ireland highlight not specifically religious differences as much as divisions relating to religious identities, social injustices, unemployment and segregation.
“The Irish people and great organizations like the Tipperary Peace Convention, Cooperation Ireland and the Irish Government and others have important contributions to make to other countries as a result of Ireland’s accomplishments in the peace process and community building, while it is still completing the peace work,” said GPF Vice President Tony Devine. “GPF-Ireland is uniquely positioned to facilitate these connections internationally, and well as leverage European resources and opportunities for peace.”