More things I want to believe

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This Gilmore has a better chance of being elected president than the Gilmore who filed his papers to run as a Republican this week.

 

1) More people care about the killing of Sam Dubose at the hands of a University of Cincinnati rent-a-cop than the killing of Cecil the lion by a Minnesota dentist.

2) The Hamilton County, Ohio prosecutor’s blunt honesty about the clear facts of this incident marks the beginning of the end of automatically granting cops the benefit of the doubt in these all too common cases.

3) James Gilmore, former one-term governor of Virginia, will be the last Republican to launch a futile bid for the 2016 nomination. Both Happy Gilmore and Jimmie Dale Gilmore have a better shot at getting elected president even though one is fictional and the other spent much of the ’70s on an ashram in Denver studying metaphysics with a teenage Indian guru.

4) An economically developed, stable democratic country will again one day host the Olympics or World Cup. Meanwhile, book your tickets now for snowless Beijing and the 2022 Winter games.

5) Perhaps at the same time as the International Olympic Committee gets its own FIFA style corruption investigation.

6) Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s confirmed death changes everything on the ground in Afghanistan.

7) The New Hampshire focus group in which participants described Donald Trump as “like one of us,” and predicted that a Trump presidency would be “classy” was really an elaborate prank for Jimmy Kimmel Live.

 

Undefeated … you keep using that word

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Seanna Walsh reads the Provisional IRA statement announcing an end to its armed campaign, July 28, 2005.

 

On Tuesday, ten years to the day after the IRA formally declared an end to its armed campaign against British rule in Northern Ireland, ordering its units to dump weapons and its members to stand down, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams released a statement in which he again declared:

The reality is that the IRA was never defeated and that again and again it was Irish republicans, including the IRA leadership, which took bold steps to bolster the peace process and to maintain positive political momentum.

On Wednesday, ten years and a day after the IRA formally declared an end to its armed campaign, British soldiers, alongside members of the police, searched homes in Derry as part of an investigation into violent dissident Republican activity.  PSNI Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan said:

There were no arrests – however, a number of items were taken away for further examination. … Due to the suspected presence of munitions or explosives, military specialists were deployed in support of police.

Independent Derry councillor Dermot Quigley told the Belfast Telegraph:

People are disgusted to see the British Army back on the streets of Galliagh and they are livid at the aggressive and hostile response by the police, which flies in the face of the peace process.

British soldiers searching the homes of Irish Republicans. It’s a funny way to mark a decade of victory.

 

The next generation

I’ve written before (like yesterday and back in March) about the dangers to peace in Northern Ireland that come with alienated and disenfranchised youths in both Loyalist and Nationalist communities. Not old enough to remember how bad things were during the bad old days of the Troubles, they are seen as ripe for recruiting by paramilitaries on both sides.

I was plenty aware of this in the North, but it came as a little bit of a surprise to see, as Vice News reported (the video is above), that recruiting is also happening in the South, what dissident Republicans derisively refer to as the Free State.

The youth organization featured in the story, Na Fianna Éireann (“Warriors of Ireland” is the English translation), is linked to Republican Sinn Fein, which split from Sinn Fein in 1986 in a dispute over Republican orthodoxy and political strategy. It was interesting to see familiar faces of people I’ve met (like Josephine Hayden) and interviewed (RSF president Des Dalton). RSF has in turn been linked to the armed dissident group the Continuity IRA, which in May released photos of its volunteers “patrolling” the streets of a housing estate in Lurgan.

The Vice News report runs 20 minutes and is well worth the time to get a snapshot of dissident Republican ideology and look at the kids that groups like RSF think represent the future of the struggle.

And then they go home

 

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Nationalist youths square off with police in front of Belfast City Hall on St. Patrick’s Day 2015. (Author’s photo.)

 

A few weeks ago, on the eve of the Twelfth of July celebrations in Northern Ireland and the annual mayhem that accompanies them (three nights of rioting in North Belfast this year), an article appeared in a Delaware newspaper with the headline, “Wilmington project aims to heal Irish divisions“.

For nearly 40 years now, the Delaware organization Pacem in Terris has carried out its Ulster Project, which since 1976 has brought groups of 18 teenagers, both Protestants and Catholics, from Northern Ireland to Delaware during the month of July to live with local host families, experience a variety of social and spiritual activities, and participate in service projects designed to “foster firm friendships and promote tolerance, reconciliation and understanding between opposing groups in Northern Ireland.”

This is an incredibly lofty enterprise. Friendship, tolerance, reconciliation, and understanding are absolutely necessary if Northern Ireland is ever to achieve the stable, equitable peace that people across the communal divides there desire.

But here’s a sobering question to consider. Forty years on, why is there still a need for the Ulster Project? Why is there still a need for the other two dozen similar projects across the United States modeled after the one in Delaware?

Think about it.  By now the original participants are old enough to have grandchildren in this most recent group coming to the states to work toward tolerance, understanding, and reconciliation. Why, after 40 years, do programs like this still exist?

Diana Chigas, of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University provides a compelling explanation. Writing on the limitations of nongovernmental organizations as conflict managers, she argues that grassroots initiatives like the Ulster Project, which focus on changing attitudes at an individual level, fail when they assume that the impacts of their activities will automatically spill over into other areas of participants’ lives — like changing their political attitudes and activities — or trickle up from the individual to influence and change the attitudes and behaviors of others in their own community.

She argues that NGOs typically assume that what they are doing at an individual level is contributing building blocks of peace and that some day all those efforts will add up. But the reality is far different:

… programming that focuses on change at the individual/personal level … but is never linked to or translated into action at the sociopolitical level has no discernible impact on peace.

In short, the answer seems pretty simple. Healing the grassroots makes little difference when the environment itself is poisoned.

At the end of four weeks, those kids go home. They go home to segregated, poverty-ravage communities in which the “other side” is the enemy. They go home to peace walls that divide them from their neighbors in the name of security. They go home to paramilitary parades, marches, bonfires, pipe bombs, petrol bombs, painted curbstones, tribal flags flying from lampposts, sectarian graffiti, and recreational rioting.

It is clear from the events of this summer, and of last summer, the summer before that, and likely summers for a long time yet to come, that there has been little genuine movement toward broad-based tolerance, understanding, and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Grassroots initiatives may change individual perspectives, and they are valuable for that. But when those programs aren’t connected to or reinforced by broader changes in society and politics, they cannot but fail to deliver on the promise of peace.  If things don’t change, 40 years from now Northern Irish kids will still be going on holiday to Delaware for the month of July, just as they have for the last 40 years.

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Ulster Project teens with some of their American hosts in front of Philadelphia’s famous Love statue. (Ulster Project photo.)