Lord John Alderdice addresses the value and the limits of 'lessons learnt' from the Irish Peace Process and the problems of implementing them in the Middle East. September, 2010.
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>> Good afternoon everybody. Welcome. I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and I'm delighted to welcome you for the Rosenthal Lecture on behalf of the entire Ford School community. I'd like to start by telling you a little bit about the origin of this lecture series. Josh Rosenthal was a 1979 graduate of the University of Michigan. He went on to earn a master's degree in Public Policy from Princeton University, and his deep interest in policy analysis and international affairs led him to work in the field of International Finance. He was working at the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001 and he died in the attacks. Down the hallway, you can find a wonderful picture of Josh. He was a Michigan undergraduate at that time and he won some sort of a Civics Award from a competition that allowed him to meet former President Gerald Ford here on campus and he's shaking hands with President Ford and it's a picture filled with optimism and filled with potential. After Josh's death, his mother Marilynn Rosenthal, a long-time faculty member at the University of Michigan, sought a way to create a positive meaning from what happened on 9/11 to help fulfill her son's early optimism about the world and his role, the role that mutual understanding, dialogue, and analysis might play in helping to improve relationships within communities here and around the world. Marilynn and others worked together to establish the Josh Rosenthal Education Fund which has enabled the Ford School to bring leading public policy figures to Ann Arbor each September to share their insights all through dialogue and generate a greater understanding about the causes and consequences of 9/11 and we're very grateful for their support. Marilynn died in 2007 but I know that she would have been extremely pleased to welcome this year's Rosenthal Lecture to the Ford School, Lord John Alderdice. Lord Alderdice was appointed a light member of the British House of Lords of the British Parliament Westminster. He's also a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist at the Center for Psychotherapy which he established in Belfast in the United Kingdom. Already a practicing psychiatrist, he became very active in Northern Ireland Politics in his early 20s joining a political party that included both Protestants and Catholics and later he was elected to lead that party through more than a decade of negotiations between the various unionists and nationalist stake holders. With the signing of the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement in April of 1998, Lord Alderdice and his colleagues achieve what one seemed impossible an end to over eight centuries of conflict including 30 years of active violence and bloodshed in Northern Ireland. In recognition of their work, Lord Alderdice, seven other political leaders, and US Senator George Mitchell were given the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In presenting the award, Senator Ted Kennedy said of the leaders, "They committed themselves to finding the needle of peace in the haystack of violence and they found it." Since then, Lord Alderdice had gone on to apply his experiences at home to seemingly intractable conflicts in other parts of the world and particularly in the Middle East. We could not be more pleased and honored to welcome Lord John Alderdice to Ann Arbor and to the Ford School and now please help me welcome him to the podium.
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>> Thank you very much indeed Dean Susan. It's a very great pleasure for me to be here with you. This past weekend saw the 9th anniversary of the death of Josh Rosenthal and so many others on the 11th of September 2001. On the 11th of November this year in Northern Ireland, we will remember the 27th anniversary of the Remembrance Day Bombing where the IRA blew up a crowd of worshippers who were at the cenotaph in the town of Enniskillen, remembering those who died in two World Wars. Among the twelve people who died that day was a young nurse, Marie Wilson. She was standing beside her father Gordon. He survived and in a subsequent interview with the BBC he described with anguish his last conversation with his daughter Marie lying in the rubble and holding his hand. "She held my hand tightly" he said, "and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, "Daddy, I love you very much". Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say. To the astonishment of listeners, Gordon Wilson went on to add, "But I bear no ill will, I bear no grudge, dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She's dead. She's in heaven and we shall meet again. And I will pray for these men tonight and every night." As the Ulster historian Jonathan Bardon recounts, "No words in more than 25 years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact." Gordon Wilson went on to become an Irish Senator, a warrior for peace, and a shining light in the midst of the horror of some of our darkest days. I never cease to be amazed by the way in which some victims and their families can find a way of creating something good out of the evil that has brought them awful grief and injury. And I want to not only remember Josh Rosenthal, that bright young man whose life was cut tragically short and in whose memory we meet today, but also to pay tribute to his mother, Marilynn Rosenthal who, like Gordon Wilson, found from some extraordinary depth in herself a way of surviving in her terrible grief and not only remembering Josh but helping others search for a better way of conducting our human relationships in this troubled world. I very much appreciate the honor that Dean Susan Collins has done me by inviting me to deliver this annual Josh Rosenthal Lecture. And I want to thank her very much for her invitation and her generous welcome and hospitality. She and her staff have been most kind. However, her invitation to explore in this presentation the possibility that our experience in Ireland might have some lessons for other communities in conflict not least the tragedy of the Middle East, is a real challenge not only because of the caliber of my illustrious predecessors in this series of lectures, but also because I am always a little careful about the thought that we in Northern Ireland have lessons for anyone else, particularly our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters whose problems are so complex and diverse and whose strategic significance is much greater than ours. Winston Churchill once unkindly said that he love the Americans because they always did the right thing but only after they had exhausted all the other possibilities.
Whether this is true of Americans or not, it is certainly the case with us in Ireland. We have made progress, but it is only because we have learnt and continue--continually painfully learned the lessons both from our own tragic mistakes as well as from the experiences of others. It has taken us hundreds of years of suffering to come to a new way of dealing with our problems. We are nevertheless happy to share our experiences in the hope that they may be of interest and perhaps even of help to some others. I also do it out of a sense of heart-felt sympathy for peoples caught up in a cycle of violence from which there seems no escape. I and my fellow countrymen and women understand something of how that feels. During some very dark times we received help, encouragement, and inspiration from others who had trod the path ahead of us in South Africa, and even in the Middle East itself during the hopeful times of the Oslo Process. So we owe it to others to contribute what we can by way of encouragement to them in their times of difficulty and as I detect at present, some despair even as yet another round of Middle East Peace Talks have begun this month in Washington DC. At the start I also want to acknowledge someone else who I've been privileged to come to know in recent years as a friend and a colleague in working for peace in the Middle East. Professor Bob Axelrod from the university here has made some remarkable and widely recognized contributions in political science and public policy. And working with him has helped and encouraged me as we've struggled not only to understand but to find ways to intervene constructively in that very fraught situation and I appreciate that very much Bob. When Nelson Mandela decided to try to help us in Ireland, he and his colleagues did not give us any instruction or advice. They brought us to South Africa and simply told us their story. Following that example I will concentrate for much of my time on telling you something of the story of our little offshore part of Europe. But as I do so, please keep in your mind the problems faced by Israelis and Palestinians in the crucible of the Middle East. In Europe, the focus of the last two decades on expansion, integration and constitutional amendment treaties and the current preoccupation with the economic crisis can obscure the fact that for the architects of the European Union the driving force was not primarily about how to build a diplomatic country balance to the United States nor even a powerful commitment to economic liberalism and the development in Europe of a free market for its own sake, but rather a reaction to the horrors of war and the determination never to fall into that abyss again
Do not forget that my generation is the first in the history of Europe not to have experienced a major war at least in Western Europe. The unprecedented destruction of two World Wars demonstrated that the traditional rivalries of nationalism and imperialism were now just too dangerous. And scientific advance had in addition created the prospect of even more catastrophic wars in the future. 60 years on, the building of an ever collusive European Union has made war between historic rivals like Britain, Germany, and France unthinkable. And the success of this process also manifests itself in the way we have understood and tried to resolve the long-standing but much smaller scale conflict in Ireland. Now, trouble in Ireland is no new thing. The greatest battle ever fought on Irish soil was the Battle of Moira in 637 AD. It went on for seven full days. Congul of Ulster fought with Domnall of Meath and brought his friends over from Scotland to help him. Mythology takes us even further back into the mists of Irish history. The great hero Cu Chulainn , the Hound of Ulster, is said to have died defending Ulster from Queen Maeve and the men of the rest of Ireland. So long before the United States, long before the Reformation brought its religious divisions, even before England was England, the Northern Irish were fighting with the rest of the people of the island. And less you think this is mere ancient myth or history, you need to understand that in places where there is conflict, time is telescoped. The past is not really completely the past and people will talk in Ireland of what happened in 1969 as though it was yesterday and of 1916, 1690, or 1641 as though it was just a month or two ago. Disputes over religion, invasion, plantation, displacement and discrimination are all layered on top of each other and none is of itself the cause alone. There is a long history and tradition of fighting and the signs of that culture of conflict are all around. The name of the city of Derry or Londonderry is disputed because its name was changed to take note that the Guilds of the City of London financed the plantation of Ulster. For Catholics, it represents occupation and defeat, for Protestants, the link with Britain and victory in a historic siege. When I spoke at the Mansion House sometime ago, the Lord Mayor of London inquired of me how things were with the Honorable the Irish Society which was set up in Derry/Londonderry hundreds of years ago to manage the affairs in the area and still exists as a charitable body on which each succeeding Lord Mayor of London has a seat. Almost every cultural image embodies divisions of loyalty and a history of conflict. For the whole of our long history there have been regular rebellions including of course those that are well known like the 1798 Rebellion, inspired I may remind you by the American and subsequently the French Revolutions. 200 years later, events in America again played their part when the civil rights marches of the 1960s inspired similar protests in Northern Ireland. When these civil rights marches in 1967 and 1968 broke down into serious urban unrest. The first reaction of the government was to deal with the problem as a matter of internal security. It's worth noting that nationalist leaders at the time demanded British rights for British citizens. However, it soon became obvious that while the trouble was triggered by dissatisfaction about current discriminatory measures affecting the catholic nationalist community within Northern Ireland, the context was the still unresolved historic problems of relationships between and within Britain and Ireland. Britain had hoped in vain that it had laid the matter to rest by the 1922 settlement that partitioned Ireland, since which it had in practice treated Northern Ireland largely as a self-governing dominion, though still within the UK. The Southern Irish state meanwhile emphasized and developed its independence by leaving the British Commonwealth, becoming a Republic, remaining neutral during the Second World War and refusing to join the NATO military alliance. During the period from 1923 and 1968, there was only relatively sporadic terrorist activity and much could have been done to address the needs of the Catholic minority in the North and the Protestant minority in the South. Cross-border economic cooperation would also have made a substantial difference to relations. Instead little was done and after 50 years of partition few Protestants remained in the Irish Republic and the substantial Catholic minority in Northern Ireland felt isolated, and alienated. Breakdown I suppose was almost inevitable and when it came it was bloody. In a population of only one and a half million people more than three and a half thousand were killed and tens of thousands injured in the violence that followed. Now these numbers may not seem large but the per capita equivalent for the USA would be deaths of 5 to 600,000 millions of people injured. In 1972 the internal government was prorogued and the Protestant/Catholic power-sharing arrangement that followed talks between the moderate unionist and nationalist parties and the Alliance Party collapsed in June 1974 after only six months in operation. Civil society in the form of the churches, the trade unions, the business community and NGOs all appealed for, and worked very hard for a settlement but to no avail. In the mid 1970's a major peace movement was led by women who felt particularly grieved by the death and injury brought about by terrorism. Subsequently joined by many men, these Peace People held marches and organized many activities bringing ordinary people from the two sides together. It seemed to have mass appeal and its leaders were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, but in the end it came to nothing. Business and professional people who had been the backbone of the public institutions left political life, while the terrorists on both sides seemed oblivious to the suffering and economic havoc they were causing. It all seemed very hopeless. Indeed at that time and frequently during the process that followed it was very emotionally difficult. We are a community of people who are not easy to work with because both sides feel betrayed. The Catholics were historically ill-treated by the British and with partition felt neglected and betrayed by their southern co-religionists. Protestants felt they had served Britain faithfully for centuries, not least in the First and Second World Wars where the cream of their young men volunteered for service and died in the trenches of France and many a foreign field. Now no one remembered or appreciated those sacrifices and instead they were being abandoned and the very regiments and police service in which they served and which were their defense against the IRA were being disbanded and they were being sold out by Britain. Every single lesson I will describe in what I say this evening was fought against by some or all of us at every step of the way. We did not come to them willingly, and we saw them from very different perspectives. I don't just mean that we viewed them through different historical prisms and that the different section of our community inhabit a different cultural identities, more than that our people actually think differently about these things. Catholics as a community tend to see problems in a broader perspective and think in a less linear way about them, and when their leader decides on a course of action they will generally follow. Protestants however, will with difficulty agree the agenda of a meeting prior to getting indication of its likely outcome, and then will not move until item two until the agenda item one has been satisfactorily disposed of. Leaders in the Protestant community are generally regarded as being there to be criticized and the tendency to split into different religious groups and political parties is quite remarkable. You will know that ours was a long-term process with many ups and downs. I started to get involved as a Party Leader nearly a quarter of a century ago. My beard was black in those days. People are sometimes impatient with the idea of a long-term process and many in the Middle East have said to me that say that they can't wait for such a process. My response is that we can't actually start sooner than now, and if they have a better way, that's wonderful. But if they've got a better way, why haven't they started it already? On the other hand there is sometimes a temptation to wait until you've got the right leader or the right set of circumstances to start working. But there's rarely a good time and when you start even the little changes you can make to begin to change do make a difference to the situation and the attitudes of the people you are working with. Not only when we started, but even a very long way into our process no one would have imagined that the man who would finally deliver the implementation of an agreement was
Dr. Ian R K Paisley.
I will return to this question of leadership later, but please understand that leadership does not mean that we started from the beginning with a grand plan in anyone's mind. Principles emerged and we worked by trial and error, trying to learn from both, from unexpected successes as well as disappointing failures and setbacks, turning disadvantage to advantage whenever possible. Although it may take a long time if you get the process under way and meetings are taking place, the violence level does tend to reduce not least when the community begins to see those who do the violence as being against a peace process in they have begun to invest some hope. Although it may be necessary to have some private meetings at the start and even at times during the process, in the main it is better that they are public knowledge. And I'll happily say more about this later since I know that for some of you it may seem counter-intuitive. But one of the reasons is that the key to resolving such problems is the negotiation of new ways of groups relating with each other. People tend to focus on the content of a solution and try to negotiate that. But for much of our time we were actually negotiating the process and then subsequently the fundamental principles. It was only very late in the game that we got to the detailed content. Let me put it in individual terms. If a young man invites a young woman out to dinner and she focuses on whether or not she is hungry and what is the content of the menu in the place where they go, she is rather missing the purpose of the enterprise [laughter] and it will almost certainly fail. The young man is not trying to address her need for food, but his need for a relationship. It's not that the menu and the venue are unimportant, nor even that if they are disastrously wrong that they will stand in the way of a good outcome, but they are not the essence of developing a relationship, which is what the young man's invitation is actually all about. If these two young people have a history of failed relationships and if their friends and family are opposed to this one, and if she falls ill from food poisoning then a good outcome is difficult, but even without these problems a good outcome is not guaranteed. Much more than in relationships between individuals you will easily appreciate that addressing historic, disturbed relations between communities of people requires considerable time, stamina, understanding, and external support, even humor can be helpful and a beneficent Providence is essential. By a fortunate turn of history the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community on the same day in 1973. As a result government ministers and others met regularly within the structure of the European Economic Community and this began to change the context of Anglo-Irish relations. Mutual respect grew as practical working arrangements developed, and twelve years later in 1985 an Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish Taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald, laying the foundations of unprecedented cooperation between the two states in addressing the Northern Ireland issue. In today's world, wars between states are less common than intra-state conflicts but even internal conflicts may be symptomatic of wider issues. This is one of the many reasons why international cooperation is so important in addressing internal conflicts. That 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement improved relations between Britain and Ireland, but while Catholic nationalists felt less isolated, the IRA continued its terrorist campaign. And Protestant paramilitaries, feeling betrayed by Britain took revenge through further sectarian killings of Catholics. It took a further six years of diplomatic activity to get political representatives of the two sides in Northern Ireland to sit around a table to talk, and even then the parties with terrorist involvement were not present. That took another five years.
This emphasizes two things. The first is you can have a political process without those who are conducting the terrorist violence, but you cannot have a peace process in such long-term struggles unless they are involved. If security or other measures could have worked without them being involved, the war would presumably have been over long since. But it's hard to make peace with someone unless you engage with them. This was one of the most difficult things for us to accept and we only came to it because of the repeated failure of all attempts to find peace by bringing together only the moderates on both sides. Now it seems self evident to us that it is necessary to bring in the people who are causing the violence, but it was in no way obvious at the time. And it still is not at all obvious to Israel and the United States in dealing with Palestinian question. The second lesson is the length of time that such processes can take, and during all of this long period it was crucial that whatever Prime Minister or party was in power in London or in Dublin, the Process continued. It was a national commitment, not a governmental commitment only. Margaret Thatcher, Charles Haughey, Garret Fitzgerald, Albert Reynolds, John Major, John Bruton, Tony Blair and Bertie Aherne all led different governments in London and Dublin during this period. But all in their own way regarded the Peace Process as something that transcended party politics. Without that sense of national commitment in both Britain and Ireland I do not believe we could have come so far. The degree of painstaking administrative and procedural discussion necessary in the pre-negotiation period should also be noted. During those years of what became known as "Talks about Talks" the parties edged slowly towards the Table, not by exploring the substantive political issues, but by discussing how they could begin to engage. This required commitment and devotion by small teams of civil servants and party officials behind the scenes, setting up arrangements, smoothing the way, and keeping records, notes, and contacts in place. And this orderly conscientious work was necessary to hold the Process together over all these years, and to facilitate the involvement of people in all the communities through their own representatives, without which little progress can be made. People will not feel a sense of confidence or ownership of a process or its outcome unless their own representatives are involved, but creating the structure and the political context where that can happen is painstaking and frustrating work. Those years were not years of perfect achievement. Mistakes were made regularly, but the consistent, gradual and increasingly inclusive approach was essential. I have seen a number of processes fail in other parts of the world at least in part from a failure to understand how essential this infrastructure is. I've already noted that the wider international community was important, and particularly during the two Clinton administrations, the
United States of America. They provided economic assistance, encouragement, expertise and mediation. Visits were arranged for Northern Ireland politicians to other parts of the world to see conflict resolution at work. South Africa was particularly helpful here. The International Fund for Ireland was established to channel financial aid from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This aid was targeted to give training, consultancy and advice to small businesses and community groups trying to build a more entrepreneurial economy. Just as the political task was to enable the divided community to take shared responsibility for its own governance, the economic emphasis has been to help people build their own wealth, take control of their own affairs, and increase their engagement in commerce and trade with the outside world. Economic development is important in itself, but it is an instrument with which to build peace. It is not the essence of the peace-making. Just as the European Coal and Steel Community enabled France and Germany to engage with each other after World War II, so economic development is everywhere an important confidence-building measure with which to address real human needs. But it is not the heart of peace-making, that's a misunderstanding often held by people from stable developed countries. One of the most important contributions made by our outside friends was the quality of the help and the people they provided. The personality and the approach of Senator George Mitchell as chairman of the multi-party talks that led to the Belfast Agreement in 1998 were particularly important in this regard. He did not bring his own solutions to the talks. He listened patiently and carefully for a very long time to all the different parties to the problem. He excluded no-one, and developed the process in such a way that parties brought their proposals to him in the presence of each other. They did not reach agreement in this way, but he built such trust that when the parties had exhausted the process of talking, they asked him to bring forward proposals based on his understandings.
This work of building a process, rather than conjuring up a solution, is the heart of conflict resolution. It requires skill and stamina and like the preparatory phase it may last many years. There are many aspects to the negotiation. The careful use of agreed, non-arbitrary deadlines, gradual building of respectful behavior even the absence of feelings of respect, devices to break through when there is deadlock, and the imaginative use of different formats for the talks are just a few of the skills needed in this key phase of the process. Perhaps the most elusive lesson however is the appreciation that there will inevitably be breakdowns. But this should not be seen as the end of the process. A physician does not abandon his patient because of a relapse. He knows that this is an essential feature of the ailment and he manages both his expectation and his management of the patient with this in mind. The same is necessary in managing inter-communal relationship breakdown. I recall for example that as we approach an election at one point in the process, parties begun to take stanzas and say things which would make a post election resumption of talks much more difficult. I ask for a private meeting with the other leaders at the home of one of their colleagues. Within 15 minutes, over a cup of tea, we had agreed a public statement undertaking that whatever happened and whatever was said in the election, within days of poling, we would return to the talks on the same basis as before that we did. I've said much about relationships and perhaps I should describe how did this affected the construction of the talks. Over a period of years, we came to a shared view that while there were disagreements over the control of territory, the form of government, historic responsibility for our problems and grievances of all times. There were three crucial sets of historic disturbed relationships which we needed to address between the people who lived in Northern Ireland, Protestant or Catholic, between the people of Ireland, North and South, and between the governments of Britain and Ireland. Even this description is carefully coached. You will notice that I say, "The people who live in Northern Ireland" not "The people of Northern Ireland." I say Ireland North and South not Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland and the description of the two governments has a degree of ambiguity about how either of them really is to Northern Ireland. Words are profoundly important and the sensitivities of such descriptions relationships would be essential for those who are involved. Now for the onlooker, perhaps even for you, they maybe as puzzled and bemused as the average American watching a cricket match. Having agreed these three sets of relationships, the talks for constructive to address them with the parties representing the people in Northern Ireland meeting under Strand 1 with the British government present, that's the responsible government. Strand 2 dealing with North-South relations included the Irish government as well. And Strand 3 dealing with British-Irish issues was an inter-governmental strand involving only the British and Irish governments. So this notion of three sets of relationships who's not merely an academic exercise, it actually structured the whole process of the talks and who was engaged at what point. The process not only came to include invitations to all parties though country too what you might imagine at new time in the whole process did all the parties actually agree to be at the table together at the same time. But they were all asked and their chairs were kept while they were absent. But it was also important to include all the issues as well as all the people he needed to be addressed. One of the most controversial was the possession of illegal weapons and the parallel process involving the same participants was created to deal with what became known as the de-commissioning of weapons. Again, not only structure and process but the language was important. It was not the surrender of weapons implying defeat of the IRA, but de-commissioning which they undertook under international supervision as their contribution to building peace. When we finally came to struggling with the content of what would become the Belfast Agreement, the experience of the European Union again showed itself. In strum two a U-cross border cooperation is mirrored in the North-South ministerial council which brings together ministers from the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to deal with areas like agriculture, economic development, environmental protection, and transport. In Strand three the British-Irish strand very able geometry of the new British Irish Council brings together not only ministers from London and Dublin but also the administrations of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as well as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The political and legal protection for human rights which is central to the new Europe is similarly a fundamental feature of every aspect of the Belfast Agreement and the key aspect of its implementation. The most novel and creative element of the Belfast Agreement is the sharing of part of the Northern Ireland Assembly. A winner-takes-all approach in our first past post election would simply entrench union as majoritarianism and this clearly was out of the question from the start. The new assembly and executive drawn from it are entirely proportional if a party takes ten percent of the votes, it will get ten percent from the members of the assembly, ten percent to the memberships in chairmans of--chairman of committees of the host and most unusually, ten percent of the ministers in the government. Imagine the difference that would make in the United States election. In addition, the first in deputy first ministers who represent the two largest parties unionist and nationalist. One from each of the two-man sections of the community can only act by agreement with each other. The first minister, and maybe the leader of the largest party in the largest section of the community, that he cannot act without the full agreement of the deputy first minister. All of these components, the critical played by influential international relationships, the sustained political commitment over a long period of time whatever government is in power, a significant propriety period of pre-negotiation, the difficult but necessary inclusion of the representatives of all parties, the creation of sustainable economic development a cross border trade. The deployment of patient, imaginative, and skillful mediation through along-term talks process, an element of institutional creativity, and the embedding of international instruments of human rights protection were all vital aspects of our conflict resolution. But they were not themselves sufficient for success. There are at least two others. Until the people in any conflict begin to turn away from violence doesn't mean it's solving their predicament. They are unlikely to be prepared to accept that the price of peace is worth the price of peace. The community needs to be weary of war and prepared to accept an outcome that is less than their ideal, a compromise for the sake of peace. Central to this is the rebuilding of the rule of law. Dematerialization, decommissioning their legal weapons, and reform a pleasing in the criminal justice system where the most difficult and contentious issues of all in Northern Ireland. Frequently threatening to bring down all that had been achieved and only really being fully implemented now more than ten years after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement itself was achieved. Rebuilding the rule of law is an exceptionally complex and emotionally demanding area and it is closely linked to the position of minorities. Rights, responsibility, and respect for minorities are also very difficult issues but they cannot be avoided because they are up the core of such conflicts. The classically role of commitment to freedom under the rule of law creates an environment for the protection of minorities but even international legal norms and structures are rarely a sufficient guarantor for the partisans in the conflict. Usually, particular political protections are required at least for a transitional period. In Northern Ireland as I've just described, the formation of the assembly, its committees, and even ministerial positions involve complex formulae and guarantees for both sides precisely in order to give every community protection. It's a very tight model of power sharing constructed to deal specifically with our own situation and it's not without its problems, because it can lead to long term political stasis and grid lock and no one can tell whether it will eventually survive. But in the end it's necessary to move beyond, even such processes, formulae, and regulations in preventing and resolving conflict. While relationships in communities cannot survive without the stability of structures and relationships, they're based on more than the observance of rules and laws. There must be a spirit of generosity and respect. Without this, they cannot flourish and the conflict is never truly put to the past. Rules and rights can provide the context for a conflict to be stopped but only a new culture of mutual respect can prevent it from returning. Developing map political culture of respect and trust is not a prerequisite or a pre-condition for reaching agreement, much as for starting a process. It is a possible outcome and this the task of this generation in Northern Ireland had shouldered. It cannot be delegated to the next generation for this would be to hand on to them the poison legacy which we inherited and that is no commendation for any generation in Northern Ireland or in the Middle East.
This has been a story of a community made up largely though not exclusively of two groups of people and those with whom they relate. One body of people, mostly Protestant, who for political reasons and in some cases because of religious persecution left their home land, relocating under the edges of British rule to another territory where they displace many of the Catholic people who were already living there and establish a new legal and political entity which they maintained for some hundreds of years but which the original community ceased to respond to as an occupation. Eventually these strategic circumstances changed. So that Britain no longer require their loyalty or for them to act to maintain its hegemony. Within a very few decades of that change, the stability of the territory became increasingly uncertain in the light of a long-standing terrorist stampede, this purpose was to remove the British presence. The enormous security of requirements, the movement of people, and the polarization of the community as result of the violence and the high economic and political praise, led to a withdrawal of the emotional attachment by Britain despite the determination of the majority of the people living in Northern Ireland to maintain the status. Their determination was not enough to achieve stability on the contrary it led them to missed opportunities for a peaceful settlement even when it was in their best interests and eventually they have to accept a much less beneficial outcome in order to achieve some measure of peace and stability. I do not think it impossible to see some similarities between the Israel which emerged after the Second World War on the Northern Ireland that emerged after the first First World War, but most Israelis do not see that. Prime Minister Netanyahu told me that the difference was that the IRA did not want to destroy Britain, but Hamas wanted to destroy Israel. He missed the point. The Protestant unionists of Northern Ireland were not exercised about Britain. Their concern was that the IRA did indeed want to destroy Northern Ireland. The IRA posed, in the current political parlance of the Middle East, an "existential threat" to Northern Protestants. I have previously seen the failure of leaders to read the runes and learn from historical similarities despite differences. Years after the fact an Ulster Unionist leader came to my home to meet me and bemoan his own failure to recognize and grasp an opportunity for peace when it was available in the early 1970s, not appreciating then that the next time there would be less on the table. Of course there are many differences. Northern Ireland is no longer of strategic significance. In the past it was the crucial back-door for invasion of England by the Spanish, the French and others, as they demonstrated repeatedly over the centuries. But things changed after World War II and within a few decades a British Secretary of State was able to say that Britain no longer had any selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland. That is not yet the situation for Israel and the United States, but that time may come. What cannot be doubted is that when the United States no longer regards Israel as an essential strategic asset, and only recently General Petraeus reflected on the beginning of just such a change in a report to President Obama, then Israel's isolation in the region could develop very rapidly and with it terrible violence and an outcome not in the best interests of Israelis whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim. Much sooner than that it could be concluded that a two state solution is no longer feasible and that Israel may have to retain all the territory it has been occupying for more than forty years, but of course, that would mean the end of the Jewishness of the State of Israel. It is not the Palestinians ultimately who needed two state solution. It is those Israelis who wish to maintain Israel as both Jewish and democratic, a not inconsiderable challenge in the long term. When I began five or more years ago to try to explore how far the experience we had in Northern Ireland might be relevant to Israel and the Palestinians, I reflected on what had been the most difficult lesson for me, the realization that it would not be possible to end the IRA terrorist campaign without talking to their leaders. The obvious read-across was to Hamas and Hezbollah and so I made it my business to start meeting them in the region. I came to the conclusion that they were both prepared, in their different contexts, to engage in working towards a peaceful outcome but they did not know how to do so, and they could not without a constructive engagement with Israel and the West. Hamas repeatedly emphasized their preparedness for a long-term hudna, or ceasefire and Khalid Meshal recently went much further in a meeting with Bob Axelrod, Scott Atran, myself and other colleagues. Prior to the disastrous South Lebanon war Hezbollah asked me to write a paper for them on how we had addressed the decommissioning of IRA weapons because they wanted to explore Western concerns about their materiel, of course the South Lebanon war knocked that completely off the agenda and things have moved on with Hezbollah now in government. However, the consistent message was the same. Palestinians, including those who were leaders of the violent struggle, resistance or terrorism according to your viewpoint, all wanted to find a peaceful outcome for the sake of their long-suffering people. My experience of meeting with Israelis at every level of society, including with some settlers, is that they too really want a different future for their children and grandchildren, one where they can live in peace, security and prosperity. We could never have found a way forward without the British and Irish Governments coming to understand that they had a critical role to play in dealing with their own historic differences, engaging with all parties to the problem including the men of violence, and acting as the engine of a peace process through all the ups and downs and for as long as it would take. In the same way I believe that while other governments and groups have a role to play in finding peace in the Middle East, without leadership and support from the United States and Europe it will be well nigh impossible to succeed. After many frustrations during the period of George W Bush's time in office, I had high hopes of the new Obama administration, especially after his appointment of George Mitchell, an old friend who had played such a key role in Northern Ireland, and Hillary Clinton who was very familiar with what had been necessary by way of engaging with the leadership of the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries. President Obama's Cairo speech had the possibility of being a watershed in relations with the Muslim world, but since then we have the difficulties over the settlements in the West Bank. There is also a perception in the region that he became, albeit understandably, pre-occupied with getting the Health Bill through Congress and making sure that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not become his Katrina. The faltering over the settlements in the West Bank has been mirrored by uncertainty and a slipping back to older rhetoric about how to deal with Iran. And this is not the road to peace and stability in the region. Turkey has been prepared to help with Syria and Iran, but their positive engagement with both has been ignored, then discouraged, and finally relations with Israel have broken down over Gaza and the attack on the flotilla. Syria has for years been trying to find a way of emulating Jordan and Egypt in negotiating a treaty with Israel, but its insistence on the return of the Golan, which not only international law and the international community. But Israel itself recognizes is Syrian territory, receives no serious, positive engagement. Robert Malley and Peter Harling in the current issue of Foreign Affairs describe with striking clarity how the flawed analysis of "good guys and bad guys", "for us or against us," is leading to aninexorable decline long term in US influence in the region and a deterioration in the prospects for anything other than more serious possibly even a major war in the region. Two years ago in the journal India and Global Affairs, a friend Sundeep Waslekar and I warned that "If time is lost, more and more parties will enter the dynamic of the conflict. Currently at least the parties concerned can talk with each other in Arabic, Hebrew and English. If they wait for a few years more, they will have to conduct business in Persian, Russian and Chinese if they are talking at all, for the danger is rising of a major conflagration in the region with implications for all of us, all around the world. In the absence of an appreciation of the need to talk with Hamas and Hezbollah, and the British Government has taken some steps forward and engaging with the political wing of Hezbollah, what can we do? Is there anything further in the European experience that we can do? I have referred earlier to the European Coal and Steel Community which the French and Germans developed as an instrument through which the resources for war could be turned to solely peaceful cooperation. In meetings through the World Federation of Scientists we have developed the idea of trying to focus on "Water, Energy and the Environment" as we-- as aspects of shared human need and welfare in the region. "Was it possible," we asked "to build joint institutions to address these issues and so begin to create the kind of institutional cooperation which had been foundational in improving British-Irish relations?" The Swiss, Swedish and Turkish Governments have committed themselves to financial and diplomatic assistance and a number of countries in the region are already participating in the discussions.
Our vision is shared by Prince Hassan of Jordan and he participated in the two conferences which have been held, the first in February 2010 in Montreux, Switzerland and the second in May 2010 in Amman, Jordan. In two weeks time a further meeting will be held in Turkey with a number of Governments from the region and we are trying to persuade other governments to give support to and participate in this process. It is a long a difficult road, but as you will know from what I have said a peace agreement is like a marriage contract. There is much good developing of relationships before it, and unless that work continues afterwards, the fact of a legal contract will not ensure that the relationship survives. Are the prospects for the official process that was re-launched this month in Washington as bleak as most observers believe? In June of this year, the Israeli government appointed my colleague Lord Trimble formerly David Trimble First Minister of Northern Ireland to be one of two international observers serving on Israeli Commission of Inquiry along with Canadian former Judge Advocate General Ken Watkin into looking into the events surrounding the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara. You will all be familiar with the events of the flotilla incident and the subsequently adverse diplomatic fallout for Israel. David Trimble, the former First Minster of Northern Ireland was of course the winner of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with John Hume, the Northern Irish Nationalist Leader, for their work on the
Irish Peace Process, but he was not always seen in that light. I will remember the Saturday night in September 1995 when he was elected Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party. A pall of gloom descended on the gathering in which I was present that night. David Trimble was seen as a real hard-liner. He had defeated four other candidates in the immediate aftermath of his controversial role in the Drumcree conflict, in which he led a controversial Protestant Orange Order march, amidst Nationalist protest, down the predominantly Catholic Nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown. He and the Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley walked hand-in-hand as the parade of loyalist triumphalism proceeded down the road. Local Catholics and Nationalists angrily viewed it as deeply insensitive when many Protestant unionists saw Trimble as sticking up for them. Moderates on all sides believed it spelt the end of any prospects for peace. However, shortly after his election David Trimble became the first unionist leader in 30 years to meet with an Irish prime minister in Dublin and then in 1997, the first unionist leader to agree to attend negotiations with Sinn Fein since Ireland was partitioned in 1922. In 1998 the Good Friday Agreement resulted in him going into Government, not only with Dr. Paisley a fellow unionist and the party of constitutional nationalist John Hume with whom he shared the Nobel Peace Prize, but with Sinn Fein and the former IRA leader Martin McGuinness also in the cabinet. I have no idea whether Benyamin Netanyahu recognizes, much less admires, the role that David Trimble played in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, but as David Trimble himself told his own people at the start of the Talks Process, referring to the Republicans led by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness who were in the room, "Just because people have a past does not mean they cannot have a very different future." He proved it to be true, and so can the Israeli Prime Minister. What we need is not a change of personalities, peace is about dealing with your enemies whoever they are, not choosing your friends. Peace can be found by changing the approach, of all concerned, not only the partisans to the conflict but all of the stakeholders, and that includes my country and yours too. Both our countries had leaders who profoundly changed their approach to the cause of peace in Ireland. It can be done for Israel and the Palestinians too. We owe it not only to future generations, but to all of those who have died as well as those who are left behind and still suffering, all the Josh Rosenthals and Marie Wilsons, all the Gordon Wilsons and Marilynn Rosenthals, all the Israeli and Palestinian people who have suffered so much. But we must not leave it too late.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you very much for those inspiring remarks. You have offered to take some question and answer and perhaps I'd invite you to come back up here. Since you're marked actually--you might, you don't need to stand right at the lecture and if you'd prefer whichever would be convenient. So, we'll go until about 5:30 and he has said that he will orchestrate the question and answer period.
>> Thanks very much Susan. Please.
>> Thank you very much for [inaudible]. My question is this. One thing that you said during your speech was the importance of detail in bringing in as many parties as necessary not just the two main parties and that got me to thinking about Iran and I'd like to hear your thoughts on this. In order to have let's say an exchange of Palestinians say no more violence, let's say Israel [inaudible] what the Palestinians call the [inaudible] against the settlement occupation, et cetera. What would you think about, for example, Iran being brought in and for Israel's sense of security which it's always complaining about, Iran agrees to give up its nuclear arms program? In other words you're bringing Iran into the equation for the good of everybody and if Iran could be persuaded with enough cares to do that would that help expedite true and lasting piece between Israel and Palestine?
>> Let me say first of all that Israel and Israel's people must have a full reassurance that they believe in, about their security. Otherwise, nothing will work. And of course that's also true for Palestinians. They have to have that sense. So in terms of the outcome of any settlement which they will sign up to and live with, there have to those kinds of reassurances and there all kinds of elements to that. I'm very weary of trying to require other countries to fulfill certain requirement that we or somebody else might have before you even start engaging with them but I think there are steps that can be taken. President Obama started to try to take some steps in opening up a conversation. His predecessor did exactly the opposite when he received a letter from President Ahmadi-Nejad which I'm sure was not a particularly congenial letter but nevertheless to throw it in the waste paper basket was perhaps not the most diplomatic thing to do.
It might have been wiser to explain even publicly that the letter had been received. It was clear that both of them had responsibilities for the welfare of their people that there were also major disagreements that he would like to study the letter and he would be instructing his officials to do so and he would like to get back to them in the next month. And so you start a long and difficult process of engagement. It's not about jumping to the end of the line and saying, "Okay, well you'll sign up for that. We'll sign up for that. Come on, let's go." That's not the way these things can possibly work but it is possible to gradually begin the engagement and funny things happen when you start to do that. You know, if you start behaving respectfully to someone it is just in the short of period of time after that, a little more difficult for them to be disrespectful about it. I discovered this when I became the speaker of Northern Ireland Assembly, here we've got Dr. Paisley sitting over here, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness sitting over here, the Ulster Union is here, STOP here, Alliance Party just in the middle here, rather appropriately. And the question for me as speakers when these people start discussing really difficult issues, how am I going to keep from them throwing things at each other? 'Cause when I was in [inaudible] Council they did. If there was nothing other than microphone they threw the microphone.
And I thought well, you know, one of the things that I have learned from my parliamentary experience is if you behave in a respectful way not by telling people to be respectful, you know, when parliamentarians say with all due respect that means they're about to say something disrespectful.
The [inaudible] with respect, so when I came in to the chamber I would just give a little court bow and, you know, when you do something like that people kind of feel like responding. Don't repeat him in particular, like to be a good parliamentarian. He is a good parliamentarian and he knows that when the speaker does that, you respond. So when he did that then of course all his colleagues thought well, the boss is doing that, we'll do that too. And then when the folks on the other side saw it, they thought well, you know, we don't want to appear ungracious and so they would--they would do it too.
Martin McGuinness was particularly always scrupulously polite. That once you do that, you know, if you just show your respect to someone for the first few minutes after that, they just don't feel like being disrespectful. And gradually over a period of time, we go to position where frankly, the behavior in the Northern Ireland Assembly was hugely more respectful than in the House of Commons.
Partly because people got to the point of saying, "Actually, we don't want to make fools of ourselves here. We want our people to be proud of us. We want to be able to portray our cause sternly and strongly but we don't actually want to wreck all of this because it's what we've got." So I think it's the same kind of thing. It's not about, you know, can you get around to do this and Israel to do that and we'll do such and such and so on. Its way, way down in the track and the solutions you may come to be may be the ones you're describing or they may be something completely different. The Roman for example, one of the things Iran feels is, "Why should we not have the right to the things you insist on having for yourselves?" That doesn't feel respectful. Well, it maybe that that's not the only way of getting respect but that's how they feel at the moment. But if all we do this treat them with disrespect, then as sure as eggs are eggs, that's the way they're going to go. But the process of building the relation--and it's not that it always works, you know? There are enough young fellows and older ones around in this room who have tried building relationships to know that they don't owe this work and it's true of the girls here as well, you know? It doesn't--but there are some things that make sure it doesn't work and I think we've indulged in too many of those in our international affairs over the last 20 years. You know, there was a time at the start of our process when a world leader was highly regarded because he was building peace in the former Soviet Union, in South Africa, in the United States of America, in Europe. And we lost that. The big world leader was the guy with the big stick. I think we've got to try to find a way of moving forward to the place where the vision we give to our young people, the model we give to our young people is the model of leaders whose real commitment is to making a better future for them and a more peaceful one.
>> Do you think it would change the dynamics in the Middle East peace process if we [inaudible] United States for the world, had a much better handle on alternative ways of doing the same things that we now use fossil fuels or so that the governments in the Middle East that are exporting the greatest amounts of oil no longer have that oil power. >> I--
>> Or is it time lag too long to--[simultaneous talking].
>> Yeah, you're dealing with something that is a hugely long term issue. And the use of fossil fuels is not just about enemy--or about energy. It's about a huge number of organic products that we make. So it's a highly complex issue. And in a way what slightly worries me about is that it's not about trying to find a way of engaging and working together but a way of trying to isolate ourselves so we don't need the other guy. And so, I'm sure in some ways we will move in that direction for a whole bunch of reasons over the next 30 or 40 years. In doing that, the position of Israel will I think become much more dangerous for it's self.
No, I think it will become much more dangerous because if the United States no longer feels that it needs a kind of aircraft carrier in the Middle East, then Israel will fall into the same position as Northern Ireland where it is no longer a matter of selfish economic and strategic interest from United States. But if it is an irritant which means that the United States and United States Military are less welcome in the Middle East in other guises then you will have some of your military saying, "Hey guys, you know, that's no longer in our interests" and, you know, people should not imagine that in the long term countries act--developed tourism. Bob and I were discussing earlier on today how, you know, a hundred years of relationships between the United States and Britain including through two World Wars disappeared in an Eisenhower cabinet meeting when he decided he wasn't happy about the way Britain and France were dealing with things in the Middle East and that was an end of it. "Okay, tell those guys if they don't do what they're told I'll bankrupt them." And I--you know, I think from the experience of people in Northern Ireland a generation will arise that will not remember the relationship if strategically it is no longer significant. So it's a complex when you're raising we will sure move in that direction ultimately but it may not bring necessarily peace and better relations. There was a question up at the back.
>> Hi! I'm a graduate student and I'm doing research on more like vision and social memory of the troubles in Northern Ireland and in the past couple of years there has been kind of this movement in terms of cultural memory and a creation of archives and representation of the troubles. And I was just wondering what your take on that current environment in Northern Ireland was, just given I know that there's I think more bombings this year than in the past several years like the recent discovery of the [inaudible] bomb at a primary school and, you know, there's still conflict going on between, you know, both sides. I just wanted to get opinion on the environment and just about, you know?
>> Sure. Let's take a political bet first. The debates and conflict within parliament buildings that are absolutely fine, nothing to worry about at all. People think that peace is about getting people to agree with each other. It's not. Peace is about getting people to disagree with each other without killing each other.
That's what it's about. You try to create a political context where you can argue the bit out with passion. In fact if you don't argue it with passion, it's no use because your people believe you're just playing a game. You're not really representing their views. You really have to disagree with the other guy and then, you know, ultimately, you find kind of ways through it. But that's what politics is, that's why you call it parliament. That's why it drives me crackers when people say, "It's just a talking shop. Wonderful! It's better than the alternative." So don't--not that I wouldn't worry about it too much in the short to median term, of course there are things you got to agree on ultimately, that's fine. The question of the violence and the bombings--let me explain a little bit about that. As we went through the peace process many unions, British government, Irish government, Americans were very frustrated with Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein 'cause they moved incredibly slowly. And I know from talking to him, actually he himself got a bit frustrated about how long it went on that his concern was that he didn't split the movement because there were people in the movement who said, "You're selling out. You know, the Brits will never understanding anything except violence. They're only suckering you. You're going to end up being in a British state." And there are still some who say that. But as he went along through the process, every time he took a major step there were a few guys dropped off at the end 'cause they didn't agree, you know. When they took their sits in the Dublin Parliament, not the British parliament, when they take a seat in the Dublin Parliament there were some guys who split off. When they took another step in the peace process, some guys split off. When eventually they said, "We will support the devolution of placing injustice," some guys split off. But while the IRA was around, none of these groups did too much because the IRA would know how to deal with them. I remember one of the guys who as a former IRA man and I was completing to him in the assembly that one of his Sinn Fein colleagues was causing me a lot of trouble, a speaker. And he said, "Speaker, do you want me to deal with him?" And I said "No, no, no, no, no. I'm on it."
Its okay, it's okay. I'll manage. Well, ironically of course, an independent monitoring commission was set up. Myself, the former acting director of CIA Dick Kerr, former head of Metropolitan Police Anti-Terror Branch, former head of Department of Justice in Dublin and the job of the four of us was to monitor security force normalization and the activities of the paramilitaries. So what that meant was that the IRA eventually moved to decommissioning but they had to also stop beating people up and doing stuff like that 'cause they would get a bad report from the IMC and this wasn't a good thing. Politically it wasn't a good thing. However, while the IRA was still there, the dissidents were just a bit careful. They didn't want to knock on the door. Ironically, when the IRA itself really began to de-structure, got rid of the engineering part and, you know, stop recruitment, stop training, all that kind of stuff. These guys then began to say "Huh, we're the real IRA, nigh? We don't need the way about these 'cause they get a bad IMC report if they came out and did anything nasty to us." So ironically, as the IRA went away, these dissident groups which were smaller, less sophisticated, less hierarchical, more like a kind of social network, all disagreeing with each other, each bunch having their own army counsel and so on. All of them also quite a lot involved in criminal activity. They began to get a bit more bold and so what you're seeing over the last little while is somewhere of this dissident activity.
Not because there's support for it in the wider community 'cause that's not the case. The emotional drivers that were there in the late 1960s aren't there now but there are some people who will never accept that there is a peaceful way of dealing with our problems and the physical force is not the solution to Ireland's problems. And that's, you know, that's going to take time and gradually dealing with things and wearing things down and as they say, it may be that the pattern is a slightly different one as well. But you're not talking about a gradual return to the terrorist camp in. You're talking about a number of dissident groups and to some extent, it's going to be a question of how Sinn Fein and the Republican community actually deals with that rather than, you know, the British State or Union of--or whatever. That's much more something within that community. So, I think things are moving forward but you shouldn't see it as a simple linear progression. We have always hiccupped our ways through this process but it's still going in the right direction. Thanks. There was a question over here.
>> I was wondering if maybe you could talk a little bit more about the importance of hard line personalities in these processes. Kind of like, you mentioned, you know, Ian Paisley in Israel, there's also [inaudible] in the '70s and how important they are to actually selling the idea of peace to a community that may be a little bit more conservative but it's looking for this ultra conserved personality that is now looking [inaudible]?
>> Yeah, it's a very interesting study and there's certainly good reason to believe that ultimately, it is kind of the hard liners on each side who have to come to the conclusion that it's in the best interests of their own people and that--that takes time and it's a risk for them. And it's not--I think ultimately, you know, it's not simply a matter of political calculation. Two stories about Ian P. is I remember long time ago saying to him, "Ian, what is wrong with power sharing?" And he said, "What's wrong with it? I've been against it all my life that's what's wrong with it."
Which was a persuasive argument but, you know.
Then Austin after he had had this extraordinary press conference with Gerry Adams, where they went at the same table. The two tables were at right angles to each other and then the DUP were in this one and Gerry Adams was in this one and both of them were taken off for separate interview sand both of them said the same thing essentially which is, "We did this for our grandchildren, you know. We've been through all of this and we don't want them to have to relive it in the same kind of way." And that was actually what we heard from a quite hard line politician in the [inaudible] Bob. "I want it to be different." In fact, he actually went further. He said, "I think I failed my son in not having it done for his generation. I must not fail my grandson." And just seeing the enemy as a human being who has real feelings about themselves and about their families and about the future of the community is really important. Once you see them as something less than human or different from human, you're already on the road to trouble. But you're right, these people can lead me their people forward. There is a sense of trust. They don't have a feeling that they're going to be old flanked from the outside as it were. But they pay a price because not all of their people will go with them. Not all the Republicans run to Gerry Adams and not all Ian Paisley's people have gone with him either. So they actually have to be courageous at some point at a time when they judge it to be possible. You had a question?
>> What would be your advice to the independent judges, the mediators in the United States in the case of Israel and the Palestinians on setting up an agenda? You implied or suggested at one point in your remarks that one walks into a windowless airless room and there is no agenda or there is no agenda that has finished, you're working your way through a process but what would be your advice to those who are actually trying to manage this in an in partial way? How best could state department staff and others involved as well as the staffs and the people behind the scenes on the Israeli and Palestinian side come to step A through step Z?
>> Please, not windowless, airless rooms. It's hard enough with like that alone. The building we actually end up negotiating in was not a particularly congenial one, but no. It's tough enough with--the advice that I would give is first of all try in so far as possible not to push your own agenda but to genuinely try to facilitate these people in finding their way forward and then understanding that. This is really difficult because every state comes with a degree of agenda or it wouldn't be there in the first place, so one way beyond that is to have more than one state cooperating with each other. For example the United States and the European Union which are very different agendas in this kind of area and they then intend to hold each other a little bit to account. The British and Irish Governments were the key for us. They saw things from a different perspective. They held each other to account but they were absolutely clear they were the engine and they have to hold--they had to contain things and not allow us to play one parent off against the other if you like. And that's the key thing is to get more than one perspective that genuinely tries to help people to find their way forward. What I tend to find is that people come in with an agenda which is their country's agenda, a timetable which is very often their president's electoral timetable and then try to ram it through in that kind of--I remember, one of your much esteemed ambassadors to our part of the world. I'm trying to make it as indefinitely as possible.
Who asked me how long I thought it would take to resolve the problem and I was saying this to some of the colleagues at lunch. And I said, "Well, you know, it's been about 25 years of violence at that stage and I guess it would probably take much the same length of time. We've only been on the road about five years, now maybe about 15 to 20 years." And the individual concerned, I'll try carefully not to give gender. The individual concerned said, "But it can't possibly take that long." And I said, "Why not?" And the ambassador said, "'Cause I won't be here then."
I said, "Probably not."
But it wasn't the first question on the IRA Army Council's list.
And that's the thing. I mean I think there are a lot of people who look for example at what happened during President Clinton's [inaudible]--not with us but in the Middle East and think if only there hadn't been a presidential electoral timetable, maybe a little bit more progress would have been able to have made it at that stage. So--but these are kinds of perfection and it's not an easy job at all.
>> Unfortunately, that's going to have to be our last question.
>> Thanks Susan.
[ Inaudible Remark ]
>> And an organization like Pete's now that will criticize the government and reports out the settlements and tries to make contact with the Palestinians. Do they have a role or do you think that it's a hindrance?
>> No. I don't think it's a hindrance and I think there is--there are number of rules. One of the rules is to actually try to keep things from completely falling apart and, you know, there--there were occasions at home where we could have broken down into an open civil war and we didn't. And sometimes you wonder, "Why didn't we?" And I think it was partly because there was this web of relationships of people in all sorts of bodies, academics, sporting, cultural, religious, NGOs, charitable bodies, artists, all sorts of people who were trying to keep the relationships going. So I think that's--that is itself--same thing is you are keeping a degree of normal life going and that's important 'cause this is not a dress rehearsal for the people who are leaving through this period of time. That is their life and so, you're enriching their life in the middle of what is not are really very pleasant place to be. You also provide mood music in a sense that helps towards the peace process. You help to give some sense of encouragement that things are possible. It's the old business of lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. But you actually give people a sense of hope and sometimes some of the people that you give encouragement to are people who can actually make a difference and they just need that encouragement. They just need that sustenance to keep them hanging on in there when frankly they feel like immigrating. You know, they just feel, "Oh, forget it. This is just hopeless altogether." And there are some, not very many but there are some of the people who follow the line that you described who ultimately end up playing a more substantial role.
In our situation, there were a few people, not many but there were a few people over the years who because of their religious involvement or because of their involvement in caring professions or in other ways became important in communicating between people who could not or would not otherwise meet. So that is--for a few people they actually end up doing that but for all of those who are involved, they need to know that they are helping to sustain and maintain a degree of humanity and human relations in a context where all that is driving in the process is driving people to forget the humanity of the other and to descend in a very inhuman and inhumane relations. And to maintain that is of itself of enormous importance in keeping things from deteriorating and creating the context in which--I often used to say it is some of the young folk who were working with me politically, never mind outside. It may be for our generation that our job is simply to keep the hope alive. And it will be for another generation to have the incredible good fortune to see the fruits of what we're doing. But if that's what we have to do, then that is our job and that is what we should do. We turned out to be much more fortunate than that. [Inaudible] with you.
>> Thank you very much.
[ Applause ]
>> Thank you so much Lord Alderdice for those thoughtful comments and for your candor. We do have a reception outside just through the double doors and I hope that all of you will stay with us and informally continue this conversation. Thank you again.
>> Thank you very much.