Building Peace Locally
Rural Community Network’s Rural Enabler Programme held its final conference in the Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan on Friday 8th March.
The Rural Enabler Programme, supported by the European Union’s PEACE III Programme was a ground breaking peace building programme which supported local communities, institutions and agencies to use the resource of the Enabler to develop the required skills and knowledge to build peace locally. The project is the only regionally based cross border peace building programme specific to rural communities in Northern Ireland.
By November of 2012 the programme had reached all of its targets and had distributed 135 grants to local groups. Importantly the project successfully piloted working with non-constituted groups enabling those who work within churches, and those who were getting together at a very early stage of community endeavour, to access small pots of money to enable them to address issues of peace building locally.
At the closing event participants in the programme shared their experiences of working locally to address issues of parading, working between churches, working with GAA and the Orange Order, and working to understand those from minority communities be they Catholic, Protestant or ethnic groups. These projects across all seven programme themes provided ‘motivation and inspiration’ and provided ‘deeper understanding of how to build bridges with communities’.
Michael Hughes CEO of RCN in reflecting on the operating vacuum in both jurisdictions in relation to the lack of national policies relating to community/good relations went on to note that “the Rural Enabler Programme has worked quietly away, addressing local challenges, assisting local people and communities to learn about diversity, respect difference, build relationships which have moved rural communities to areas where people not only live in the same space but also and much more importantly share the space they live in.”
Pat Colgan, Chief Executive SEUPB, recognised the contribution of this initiative to the PEACE III Programme: “The Rural Enabler Programme has been extremely ambitious and innovative in its programme of action. By focusing on rural communities and on the issues affecting them, the project moved away from tried and tested methods in order to fill a gap in peace-building initiatives. The project’s ability to challenge the status quo and address the latent problems of sectarianism, racism and social exclusion that often go unnoticed in rural areas was extremely important for the achievement of the broader objectives of the European Union’s PEACE III Programme.”
This event showcased the journey taken by many groups to build peace locally with support from the programme - a journey that for some is only starting but for all has not reached a final destination.