The Forum’s 141 Questions (93): “Youth in Northern Ireland: How do they experience the conflict? What can they do?” Alec Reid, one of the signers of the Good Friday Agreement, which sealed peace in Ulster, said that, “youth must commit to making sure the peace process survives, and, therefore, to applying the legacy they have fought for.” He said that peace studies should be a university degree and emphasized that conflict resolution needs female voices. In regards to the Basque conflict, he recalled that up until now the Spanish government has not wanted to discuss anything–“they have treated them like terrorists”– and said that ETA does not have any justification because their demands could be made from the autonomous parliament.
Alec Reid, priest who has been fighting for peace in his country for thirty years, emphasized that, “we must make youth understand that, although it may seem difficult, there is a way out of all conflicts.” He assured that dialogue needs clear mentalities based on respect for human dignity and in defense of human rights that have been granted. After reiterating that, “we need to talk because no conflict is resolved using the armed forces,” Reid, known as the “Irish Gandhi”, said that the Israeli authorities and the United States government need to talk, respectively, with the leaders of the Palestinian suicide bombers and Bin Laden: “It’s possible that both sides could be surprised to find elements capable of broaching a new negotiation process.”
Reid, a man who believes in divine providence, dialogue and active non-violence said: “We all have to represent the next family that will be destroyed by an act of violence.” He is in favor of including peace studies in education and, even, making such studies a university degree: “Young people need to understand the reasons for conflicts and the violence they create in order to solve them.” He also called for women to form part of the dynamic that pushes conflict resolution. “All voices are necessary. It is very important to have all the resources that women can offer and thus, stop the vicious cycle that keeps them out of the discussion.”
As he is currently working in the Basque Country, Reid responded to a question from the public asking him to draw the similarities and differences between the Northern Irish and Basque cases. Alec Reid stated that until now the Spanish government had refused to have any discussions, –“they treated them like terrorists,” he said – while also stating that ETA has no justification because their demands can be met in the Basque Parliament.
In reference to the peace process in Northern Ireland, he predicted that, “the violence will not return to the streets” and that the country “will be the most prosperous in Europe in fifty to sixty years” when the Unionists stop fearing identifying themselves “too closely to nationalists” who must help them to feel more secure.
He said 95% of Irish youth support the peace process: “They will be the center of the future society. They must commit to a peace process that survives, and therefore apply the legacy they fought for. They must understand what peace is and the history they have behind them. They have to assimilate the principals that resolve conflicts so that they won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”