Article by Nagehan Alçı ‘Our divisions were so deep that it took 11 years to make peace’, 9 February 2022

Turkish journalist, Nagehan Alçı, wrote a second article about her meeting – organised by the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI) – with Bernie Ahern. She begins her article by describing the political situation in Northern Ireland. Alçı notes that even now, peace has not been established. Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods remain divided separated by walls. Their schools, churches and even the football teams are different. Moreover, taxis refuse to travel between disparate neighbourhoods.  

Comparing the peace process in Northern Ireland with the situation Turkey would not be accurate. There are different dynamics at play and the divisions run deeper. Nevertheless, some lessons can be taken, such as the need to communicate with everyone. Indeed, Bertie Ahern reminds us frequently that the secret to peace is to end violence through dialogue. He notes that it is of great importance when conducting peace talks that everybody feels they are being listened to.  Ahern points out that politicians should be brave: there is no outcome without any risks.

A violent struggle with armed groups will not bring peace. Undeniably, if there are fundamental problems within society -such as not having the privilege to reach political power and being discriminated against – issues will continue. Thereby, communicating with everyone is deemed more effective in comparison to promoting an armed conflict.

To sum up, ignoring even a small group within a society can have considerable consequences. The Irish experience demonstrates that armed conflict did not bring about positive results, but instead the civil rights movements brought about positive change.