Insider Peacemakers

Mari Fitzduff

Professor and Director of the MA Conflict and Coexistence Programme at Brandeis University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

A: I have seen just the most extraordinary change process facilitated by people who were out bombing, shooting, and murdering just a few years before.

Q: Is it actually an advantage to have those people turn rather than the traditional peacemakers?

A: It absolutely is. I tell this story in my book of taking a taxi home. All the taxi drivers are run by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, but you're never quite sure which side you're getting. I sat in and there was this guy reading loyalist tracks and I started a conversation and it turns out he was a republican. It turned out he was a republican who'd actually taken one of our training courses, and who was co-facilitating a lot of discussions on identity down on the folds on Shankhill Road. Of course, he said, we have great credibility, much more than you middle class folks. It was just an absolutely brilliant example, and there are dozens of these people now, who, they're the ones who call my book "the bible", because it's a very simple way if you want to structure conversations on justice or whatever.

Q: Why do they have more credibility?

A: They're seen to have suffered for the cause and they're seen to have a stake. They're seen as, in a way I suppose, being those who have, but often they're mostly in working class areas, which are the areas that suffer most. They're not people who people can ever reject as being, you know, they don't count. Because they count. They've been part of the communities. There's huge credibility for these people. Put it like this, we had a lot of problems in the workplace because we had (???)s and emblems and people were being shot dead over all these emblems, but a lot of our facilitators who would come from deep working class or working men backgrounds who were able to go in and say, "okay lads, let's sit down". Much more credibility than the people who came who were in a way protected from the conflict because the areas they lived in were not being bombed.