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Documenting the peace process by Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper - a friendly greeting

These are the notes that go along with Kevin Cooper’s PowerPoint presentation he made at the Kids' Guernica conference in Gent, Feb. 2011

  1. I have prepared handouts to go along with my PowerPoint presentation. I hope this will be useful, particularly to those for whom English is not their first language. I know my Belfast accent can be difficult to understand at times even for those who have English as their first language! I have included websites addresses, book references and additional sources for people who wish to examine this further.

This quotation is used on the front page of Healing Through Remembering (HTR) website: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” - Maya Angelou. I think this is a good quotation with which to start my presentation.

  1. I would like to thank Kids’ Guernica for the invitation and opportunity to share some thoughts and insights from my own experience about “Journalism and Conflict-the Northern Ireland Experience”. As the planned exhibition could not go ahead, I have attempted to combine the exhibition and the talk using PowerPoint. The exhibition is a small selection of some of my work as press photographer for over 25 years which I have entitled “From the Streets to Government”.

  1. What is the Northern Ireland conflict; when did it start; what was it about and is it over? All useful questions to ask. I am conscious that those of us from Northern Ireland sometimes assume knowledge on others who are not from the jurisdiction. The conflict is sometimes referred to as “the troubles” others refer to it as “the war” and even others at times call it “the freedom struggle”. I prefer the term “Northern Ireland Conflict” because it was more than a little difficulty, but not a full blown military engagement of standing armies.

  1. Roots of conflict according to the BBC:

The political entity of Northern Ireland was created by the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, which granted home rule but left six counties in the north as a part of the UK. The mainly-unionist population there had opposed being included in a Home Rule settlement.

A unionist-dominated Northern Ireland parliament opened in Belfast in 1921. The ensuing decades saw systematic social discrimination against the Catholic and nationalist minorities. In the late 1960s, as the Catholic community stepped up a campaign for equal rights, the perception grew among some unionists that the Protestant dominance of Northern Ireland was under threat. Tension spilled over into violence and the British government ordered troops onto the streets in 1969.”

  1. We should remember more than 3,600 people died, most of them civilians.

The Sunningdale Agreement was signed on 9 December 1973, but the Stormont, Sunningdale Government only lasted less than a year because of massive Unionist demonstrations and the Ulster Loyalist Strike. It collapsed in May 1974, which led to direct rule by the British Westminster Government. Sunningdale did not include Republicans.

After Republican and Loyalist ceasefires all-party talks took place, which led to the Good Friday Agreement. The Democratic Unionist Party remained outside the talks after the inclusion of Sinn Fein. The Good Friday Agreement was signed by the political parties and the two governments on 10 April 1998.

  1. Multi-party talks held in St Andrews in Fife, Scotland from 11 October to 13 October 2006, finally brought the DUP into government after the St Andrews Agreement.

To this day there remain parties and paramilitaries, small in number but opposed to the agreements. Therefore, I refer to the period since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement as a Transitional Period.

  1. Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Dublin 1986, delegates voted to end the party's policy of abstentionism - refusing to take seats in Dáil Éireann. The change in policy led to a split in SF and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, a former President of SF, and some delegates staged a walk-out who went on to establish a new organisation called Republican Sinn Féin.

  1. After Peter Robinson’s court appearance in Dundalk the Garda Síochána escorted DUP supporters through the town after they were attacked with stones and petrol bombs 1986. The RUC arrested a Loyalist demonstrator during a riot at the “Ulster says No” demonstration Belfast City Hall 1985. A British soldier helped an injured RUC officer in Oban Street in Portadown. The street was blocked off to stop an Orange march; and loyalists repeatedly attempted to enter the street 1986. Members of the Metropolitan Police in London blocked off streets to stop trade union demonstrations getting near Wapping where News International moved their non-union print centre in east London 1986.

  1. This picture is from the dome of Belfast City Hall looking down on Donegal Place, leading on to Royal Avenue. Ulster Says No Rally Belfast City Hall 1985. Unionists organised opposition to the signing of the Anglo-Irish-Agreement in November 1985 the campaign was called “Ulster says No”. It led to one of the largest demonstrations of people in Belfast, bringing tens of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets.

  1. This was early days of election campaigning for Sinn Fein 1983. The press conference was held in a Republican drinking club and the Christmas jumper was the standard dress code. In Belfast, Sinn Fein members are sometimes referred to as “shinners”, the vernacular. Today, some of these Sinn Fein candidates have held senior office, such as Belfast Lord Mayor and government ministers, wearing completely different dress code. Suits and ties are now the new image, sometimes referred to as “Shinner Armani”.

  1. The British Army four wheeled vehicle known as a “Pig” was just passing the Sinn Fein centre on the Falls Road before the election victory rally. You can see a spontaneous surge forward and stone throwing taking place. This would have been an insignificant incident then, but the British Army no longer patrol the streets and therefore in to-day’s Belfast this looks more striking. Adams delivered his victory speech from a side window of the Sinn Fein Falls Road offices. In more recent pictures you will see striking changes to the building. Sinn Fein supporters and convoys of cars with flags and posters drove around West Belfast for most of that evening. Then Vice-President of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams's election victory in west Belfast in 1983 was seen as a success for Sinn Fein's new strategy of the "Armalite and ballot box".

  1. Dr Joe Hendron, SDLP confronted by demonstrators at the Whiterock Leisure Centre after he lost his Westminster seat to Gerry Adams. After the election of Gerry Adams to the West Belfast Westminster seat, authorities had great difficulty adjusting to the situation and continued to invite the previous MP to official events.

  1. Civic Society and the trade union movement have often played important roles in reducing tension and developing dialogue. At times when there had been an increase of sectarian murders, large demonstrations led by the trade union movement have taken place which help to reduce levels of violence. In recognition of the roles that Civic Society played, The Good Friday Agreement included a Civic Forum, whose members were drawn from Civic Society. I was a member representing the trade union section and convener of the trade union members. It was suspended during Direct Rule and has not been reconvened and is not likely to be reconvened.

  1. John Hume was leader of the SDLP, Member of the European Parliament, Member of Parliament in Westminster, Nobel Laureate Oslo 10 December 1998. John was one of the founders and became leader of the SDLP. In 1988, John began a series of talks with the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, known as Hume Adams, which helped lead to the peace process.

  1. Northern Ireland has a long history of marching, some of which can be problematic-from the Loyal Orders of the unionist tradition to Easter Rising Commemoration of the Republican or nationalist tradition and the Hibernians. Problems can arise from the route of the march, policing of the march to counter demonstrations or protests. One tradition which is often overlooked is the trade union tradition, particularly celebrating May Day when Trade Unionists from all backgrounds march together peacefully.

Republican Easter Raising demonstration in Crossmaglen 1986, INLA paramilitary demonstration on the Falls Road West Belfast 1985, Orange Order march on the Springfield Road, West Belfast 2007, and the National Union of Journalists on May Day 2010.

The four identifiable marching traditions are the Republican/Nationalist Easter Rising celebrations, Paramilitary shows of Force, the Loyal Orders and Hibernians, and the Trade Union movement.

  1. Journalism and Conflict-the Northern Ireland Experience:Martin O'Hagan, was an investigative journalist for the Sunday World in Belfast. The 51-year old father-of-three was shot dead on 28 September 2001, yards from his home, by Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) gunmen, in a drive-by shooting, in his home town of Lurgan, in mid-Ulster, after a night out with wife Marie. Martin was the first journalist to be killed during the Conflict specifically because of his work and knowledge as a reporter.

I have always sought to use photography to bring about understanding and show our common humanity, even in the most difficult of circumstances. It is a journalist’s role to hold-up a mirror to society. This is particularly true for photographers. Often journalists must share uncomfortable truths about ourselves, our communities and our governments. This often leads to journalists or media being blamed for the problem. When I enter a situation I do so openly and with integrity in accordance to the NUJ’s Code of Conduct. Igive people the opportunity to show themselves at their best. If they then behave badly they cannot blame me for taking pictures.

There is a perception that those journalists who report on the Northern Ireland Conflict fly in to do so. The vast majority of journalists who cover the Northern Ireland conflict are from Northern Ireland and come from the full cross-section of communities in Northern Ireland. At their end of their shift they go back home to those communities. The NUJ supports political diversity in the media in Northern Ireland and its membership is drawn from that diversity. We should not over emphasise the numbers of those that do cover the conflict, however important that work is. Only a small percentage of journalists cover hard news, security and politics in Northern Ireland. The rest do sport, social and economic stories, features, subbing and production duties.

Journalists have been threatened and attacked by paramilitaries on all sides of the conflict. They have been physically prevented from entering areas to cover news events. The British and Irish governments introduced censorship by Section 31, Broadcasting Bans and Emergency Legislation and other legislation was used to force disclosure and the handing over of journalistic material as well as to restrict journalists carrying out their work. The deliberate misleading of journalists by omission or misrepresentation of the facts by press offices (Government, political and police press offices) has led to scepticism among local journalists about the reliability of the information supplied. It is important to remind the public and sometimes journalists; that journalists are “human and humans make mistakes”.

  1. THREATS to journalism and journalists from paramilitaries and governments and police were put under the microscope at the “Journalism Under Threat" conference held at Queen's University, Belfast on Saturday 22 November 2003. Organised by the NUJ's Ethics Council, it was co-sponsored by Queen's University Belfast Human Rights Centre and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC). Some of the Irish/British examples: A journalist was killed in the Harrods bombing as a customer and a journalist was killed by falling glass from the building he was sheltering under in the City of London bombing. Tragic and terrible as these deaths are, there is a difference between these deaths and the targeting of journalists because of their work such as the murder of Martin O'Hagan by loyalist paramilitaries and Veronica Guerin by criminal drug gangs and the attempted murder of Jim Campbell when he was shot and left for dead outside his home. The murder of Martin O'Hagan has implications for other journalists because he was targeted for his work.

  1. DART came to Belfast in 2006. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, a project of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is dedicated to informed, innovative and ethical news reporting on violence, conflict and tragedy.

A story on the Dart website “Beyond Bloody Sunday” In the wake of a landmark report about Bloody Sunday, one journalist's reflections on Northern Ireland's past and future.

Previously, DART had taken a select number of journalists away for a long weekend exploring the impact of working as long-term journalists covering the Northern Ireland conflict. I believe that more work needs to be done investigating the impact of trauma on journalists who've spent most of their career covering the conflict in Northern Ireland. Press photographer John Rush has recently researched the industry practice of, collect pictures with particular reference to Northern Ireland.

  1. Dean Pitman the Consulate General of United States to Northern Ireland who was “On the Beat in West Belfast” with Peter Farrar Superintendent West Belfast PSNI 05/04/2006. PSNI with Garda Síochána horses on the Falls Road in West Belfast 11/04/2006 before Sinn Fein agreed to support policing. If you look carefully behind the police horses on the Falls Road you can see at the door of the Sinn Fein centre Peter Farrar Superintendent West Belfast PSNI talking to Sinn Fein's members. This was six months before Sinn Fein signed up to policing.

  1. Raymond McCord senior took a complaint to the Police Ombudsman about the lack of investigation into the murder of his son Raymond McCord junior. Mrs Nuala O'Loan has upheld a complaint from his father, Raymond McCord, that over a number of years police acted in such a way as to protect informants from being fully accountable to the law. An initial investigation into Mr McCord's complaints revealed issues of concern in relation to a series of other incidents - including murders, attempted murders and drug dealing. Mrs O'Loan has concluded that her investigation has established “Collusion” between certain officers within Special Branch and a UVF unit in North Belfast and Newtownabbey. (32.1- 32.5)

Al Hutchinson, is the new Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. He said "We provide a complaints system that is independent, impartial and effective. By doing this we can help to make sure everyone in Northern Ireland receives their entitlement to the best possible policing service.” A recent controversial report was an investigation into the “Claudy Bombing”, the press statement can be found below using one of the web links:

A senior police officer in RUC, an Assistant Chief Constable in Special Branch, the British government and the Catholic Church had acted to keep a priest Father Chesney suspected of involvement in the bombing out of the investigation. Al Hutchinson said of the report: “In the absence of explanation the actions of the senior RUC officers, in seeking and accepting the Government's assistance in dealing with the problem of Father Chesney's alleged wrong doing, was by definition a ‘Collusive Act’.”

  1. At this Orange Order March on the Springfield Road in 2005 loyalists fired guns and threw petrol bombs at police and army. A BBC journalist and camera crew were assaulted and had their equipment stolen by members of the UDA. A TV cameraman had his wrist broken by a plastic bullet fired by a woman police officer deliberately aiming at the cameraman. Other journalists reported to me that shots had been fired over their heads in their direction by loyalists. The route of the March comes through the peace wall from the Protestant Unionist side of the peace line onto the Springfield Road at the Catholic or nationalist side. Residents object and protest along the route of the March. A great deal of work, negotiation, trust building by Inter-action Belfast and the police has led to lowering tension and bringing about a more peaceful environment.

  1. 20 years of Inter-Action Belfast 2008. The project’s management committee is made up of ex-combatants republican and loyalist who work with the PSNI (police) for community safety. Inter-Action Belfast works to build trust, to reduce tension and bring about safe neighbourhoods.

The top four pictures show mobile phone holders and members of the management committee both republican and loyalist. The bottom left-hand picture shows the staff of the project in 2008 front row centre is project Director Roisin Mc Glone and the right-handed pictures shows Inspector Norman Hazletl “A” West Belfast District PSNI with two of his constables at security gates on the peace line West Belfast.

  1. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was set up as one of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. It was tasked with the job of consulting on and to offer advice to the British government on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. An extensive consultation process and a special forum was set up to inform the process. The commission presented its advice to a Minister of the British government. Even though there has been further consultation by the government, No such Bill has yet been published.

  1. As outlined by the WAVE website: “THE CAMPAIGN FOR RECOGNITION (for those injured or bereaved in the Troubles of Northern Ireland).

The ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland claimed the lives of around 3,600 people with many thousands of people injured, however, the exact number of those injured is unknown as little research has been carried out in this regard. To date, some work has been done to meet the needs of those that suffer and this is to be welcomed. That said, there have been gaps which has left some victims and survivors being better looked after than others. The Campaign for Recognition believes this to be unfair and seeks to have the situation rectified by actively campaigning for recognition for all victims and survivors of the ‘Troubles’.

The Campaign for Recognition is the initiative of the Injured Group that meets at the WAVE Trauma Centre in Belfast, but those supporting the campaign come from all over Northern Ireland and are not limited to those that attend WAVE.”

  1. Professor Noam Chomsky spoke on “Hope and Prospects” at The Amnesty International Annual Lecture in the Whitla Hall as part of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s in October 2009.

International Federation of Journalists(IFJ) would frequently gather international support from other journalists unions around the world when journalists in Northern Ireland were under pressure.Human Rights activists were always supportive when I was an activist for journalists in Northern Ireland on behalf of the National Union of Journalists. I would like to pay tribute to IFJ, Amnesty International, British Irish Human Rights Watch, the Committee on Administration of Justice and Reporters Without Borders who have all helped and supported journalists under threat or subject to censorship.

  1. This is a range of some pictures which I have taken for Belfast Kids’ Guernica, which Bernard Conlon coordinated. Bernard has put some considerable time and effort making contacts with other projects and liaising with Kids’ Guernica Internationally. He has raised money through a children's folk and traditional concert to ensure the future of Belfast Kids’ Guernica. Without a formal structure, fund raising and awareness building with institutional bodies such as local government and funders is difficult.

The painting was carried out by a group of 16 young people (14 year olds) from the Little Flower Secondary School, Belfast. 7 young painters from the group did the actual painting, based on the wider group’s ideas and thinking. With the group of girls are Hatto Fischer, Boris Tissot and Bernard Conlon. Hatto and Boris had the opportunity to visit a number of projects in Belfast related to peace building. Tom Anderson of Florida State University is photographed amongst loyalist murals in Belfast during his recent visit.

  1. The WAVE Trauma Centre launched a new book on Tuesday 8th December in the Long Gallery, Stormont Estate. The book entitled ‘That Night In December’ and tells the story of a very successful ‘tree of lights’ event at WAVE in Belfast 2009.

As described by WAVE on their website “WAVE, a grass roots, cross community, voluntary organisation was formed in 1991 to support people bereaved of a spouse as a result of violence in Northern Ireland. It was expanded later to incorporate the needs of young people and children and anyone traumatised through ‘the troubles’.

Today the overall aim of WAVE is to offer care and support to anyone bereaved or traumatised through the violence, irrespective of religious, cultural or political belief. The philosophy and ethos of the organisation is one of inclusiveness i.e. anyone bereaved or traumatised—those physically impaired as a result of the violence in Northern Ireland and those who care for them. WAVE promotes a respect for life and an understanding of difference that is seen as enhancing rather than threatening. It affirms and acknowledges that there are ways of resolving difference other than through the use of violence and continually seeks creative ways of working through issues that have the potential to divide.

Over the years the violence in Northern Ireland has led directly to the deaths of over 3,600 people and resulted in over 30,000 serious injuries. The Cost of the Troubles Study (1997) estimates that, “At the very least 6,800 people have the experience of one of their immediate family—parent or sibling—being killed in a troubles-related incident.” The true cost, however, is much higher as the relatives of those killed and maimed have also suffered ill health, disruption of family relationships, impaired functioning, substance abuse and in some cases when their grief became intolerable, suicide.”

  1. Healing Through Remembering invited people to ‘Living in and Reporting on Conflict’ a seminar with Brian Rowan (author and former BBC security editor) on February 2010 at Healing Through Remembering. Using exclusive archive material Brian Rowan discussed his decades-long relationships with combatant groups, their means of communication with the media and how their words were reported. The picture on the right shows some of his archive, which includes copies of paramilitary statements andfrom 5 P O'Neills and 6 chief constables.

There is a Zulu saying that, “All truth is bitter” the name of a report of the Visit to Northern Ireland of Doctor Alex Boraine, Deputy Chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in the Preface of the report the Chairs of Victim Support and NIACRO say; “We also share a belief that our whole community must seek to understand and share responsibility for the complex causes as well as the cost of our conflict before we can move on together.” This report brought about the formation of Healing Through Remembering an organisation set up to examine how best society in and about Northern Ireland deals with our recent past. This report “All truth is bitter” which I recommend people to read if you are interested in peace processes was published in the Linen Hall Library 1999 the same place the Belfast Kids’ Guernica painting was unveiled 2009 and I photographed both events.

  1. Inter Action Belfast (IAB) Project Launch of ‘Building Sustainable Interface Partnerships’ in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings at Stormont Estate on Tuesday 18th May 2010. ‘Building Sustainable Interface Partnerships’ got 3 year Project Funded by the International Fund for Ireland.

Funding for Interface Projects has been consistently problematic, but the peace process could not have happened without people taking risks, building trust and opening dialogue often unrecorded because of the sensitivity of some of the work. It is not enough to release political motivated prisoners back into our communities without engaging them in the process of change. I have had the privilege to photograph meetings and initiatives that have led to improved behaviour and greater understanding between communities. If the peace process is to be meaningful, sustained, and develop changed attitudes in new generations, we need them to invest in communities that suffered the most. Often, the reality is they receive little help and assistance to change the environment, provide new opportunities and encourage economic growth.

  1. WAVE Trauma Centre also assists the Families of the Disappeared, those whose loved ones were taken away and killed but whose remains were never returned or found. There have been 16 known cases of individuals who have been murdered and secretly buried. In May 1999 an Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) was established by Treaty between the British and Irish Governments. The commission has been successful in recovering a number of remains, however, there are still families waiting for their loved ones.

Dr Yael Danieli: “The conspiracy of silence that far too often follows trauma is the most prevalent and effective mechanism for the transmission of trauma on all dimensions. Both intrapsychically and interpersonally protective, silence is profoundly destructive, for it attests to the person’s, family’s, society’s, community’s, and nation’s inability to integrate the trauma. They can find no words to narrate the trauma story and create a meaningful dialogue around it.”

At the WAVE Youth Services launch one young woman reflected on the Holy Cross protest; its impact on her then, as a four year old, and what it means to her now, at 13. Helena Stuart, Child Therapist who talked on Trans-generational Trauma at the event, said: “This avoidance way of dealing with difficulties may also be a family or communities or culturally supported. Some stories become broken, unheard, silenced or never told. There can be a tendency towards collective forgetting, where a society collectively ignores part of its past. This “conspiracy of silence” as it is called, this silencing in families and communities perpetuates the passing on of trauma from one generation to another because it leads to a fragmentation of the individual’s own story and self-understanding, resulting in their experience of what Dan Mc Adams (1993) calls a ‘shattered past’.” http://www.healingthroughremembering.info/





Useful References: Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland (1968 to the Present) CAIN Web Service (Conflict Archive on the INternet) http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/

The Book: Lost Lives; The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Lives-Children-Northern-Troubles/dp/184018504X

The photographic book by Brendan MurphyEyewitness

Dr Yael Danieli her books are International responses to traumatic stress: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Fifty years and beyond; Sharing the front line and the back hills (Baywood) all published for and on behalf of the United Nations; International handbook of multigenerational legacies of trauma (Kluwer/ Plenum); and The trauma of terrorism: An international Handbook of sharing knowledge and shared care and On the Ground After September 11 [a finalist of Best Books 2005 Award of USA BookNews.com](Haworth Press).

Nobel Laureate for poetry Seamus Heaney, sums up the situation in Northern Ireland in his poem “whatever you say, say nothing” to be found in his book of poetry “Seamus Heaney North”.

From poetry book “John Hewitt Selected Poems” I recommend two poems to read: on page 71, “The Coasters” and on page 92, “Neither an elegy nor a manifesto”. 

Book review in the Derry Journal: Derry-born journalist publishes new book: For those who suffered most, there is still no peace of mind: Published Date: 20 June 2008 http://www.derryjournal.com/features/Derryborn-journalist-publishes-new-book.4207508.jp

Susan McKay's book - "Bear in Mind These Dead" - explores the difficult aftermath of the violence for families, friends and communities. By interviewing those who loved the missing and the dead, as well as some who narrowly survived, McKay gives a voice to those too often overlooked in the political histories. She found grief and rage, as well as forgiveness.


More useful references web sites:

HTR: http://www.healingthroughremembering.info/

BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/4172307.stm

NUJ: http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=174

NUJ LFB: http://media.gn.apc.org/fl/0401bel2.html

DART: http://dartcenter.org/content/beyond-bloody-sunday

DART: http://dartcenter.org/

IAB: http://www.peacewall.org/home.htm

NIPO:http://www.policeombudsman.org/modules/press/press.cfm/action/detail/Press_ID/222/Archive/2010/year/2010/level/page and http://www.policeombudsman.org/

NIHRC: http://www.nihrc.org/

WAVE: http://www.wavetraumacentre.org.uk/node/131

IFJ: http://www.ifj.org/en

AIB: http://blogs.amnesty.org.uk/blogs.asp?bid=25

BIRW: http://www.birw.org/

CAJ: http://www.caj.org.uk/

RSF: http://en.rsf.org/

WAVE: http://www.wavetraumacentre.org.uk/about

HTR Event: http://handofhistoryni.blogspot.com/2010/02/reporting-on-troubles-brian-rowans-take.html

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