Article by Nagehan Alçı ‘There is still hatred but for the last 24 years there has been no bloodshed’

Turkish journalist Nagehan Alçı wrote an article following a meeting with Bertie Ahern, which was organised by the Democratic Progress Institute (DPI). Alçı noted that Bertie Ahern is one of the most notable and symbolic figures in Ireland’s political arena; he worked towards building lasting peace throughout his career in politics. During his time as the Taoiseach, Ahern signed the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, resolving the armed conflict between both parties. Alçı asserted that Ireland has since significantly progressed, specifically in terms of its economy; the country has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Alçı’s questions were varied, ranging from specificities of the renowned peace agreement to Ireland’s contemporary affairs. Ahern declared that in difficult times, such as armed conflicts, the key component is to preserve the hope of peace. Dating back to 1968 – the origins of Ireland’s conflict, there have been three attempts made to establish peace. The first, unsuccessful attempt occurred in 1974 and led to general strikes; the second unsuccessful attempt occurred in 1985 during the Thatcher government and ostensibly failed due to lack of inclusivity regarding conflicting parties. The late 1990s however, achieved greater success due to the more comprehensive involvement of varies actors and stakeholders. For instance, prisoners were released and integrated into society. The primary goal was to reach universal consent on the matter in the hope to provide a better future for everyone (Catholics and Protestants).  This method proved more effective, and whilst hatred still remains between certain individuals/groups, peace was established, and guns laid to rest.

Based upon religious demographic factors, i.e. Catholic or Protestant, the borders of Ireland were drawn by the UK in 1921. Since, Catholics have been ‘othered’; left in neighbourhoods with poor living conditions, deprived of sufficient educational opportunities and health services. Contrastingly, Unionists’ children travelled to London to acquire better education whilst Catholic children remained in the cities. The UK government promoted hope, and provided opportunities for wealth and prosperity.  Inadequate socioeconomic conditions subsequently led to the events of Bloody Sunday. Nowadays however, the divergences between neighbourhoods are less visible.