Oct 14 2008 Posted: 00:00 IST
The politics of peace and conflict will be the theme of a Political Studies Association of Ireland conference at NUI Galway from 17-19 October. The event will feature discussions on the Irish peace process, peacekeeping, Latin American politics and Iraq. Other topical subjects at the conference, which is being organised by the University's School of Political Science and Sociology, will include the Lisbon Treaty and the Irish political party system. Speakers at the conference include Brendan Duddy who acted as an intermediary between the IRA leadership and the British government between 1973 and 1993. The existence of this channel of communication was a closely-guarded secret, causing major public controversy when it was finally revealed. The Secret Peacemaker, a documentary about Brendan's significant role through those turbulent times, will be screened and followed by a questions and answers session . The event will also feature Nuala O'Loan, who played a prominent and important role in the Northern peace process in recent years as Northern Ireland's first police ombudsman. She was at the centre of intense public debate and controversy, carrying out investigations into the Omagh bomb inquiry, and police collusion with paramilitaries. A UK House of Commons Committee report in 2005 praised her role and recommended that she be given wider powers, and she was appointed by the Irish government in February 2008 to serve as their special envoy in Timor-Leste (east Timor). Conference organiser and lecturer in Politics at NUI Galway, Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh, said: "The persistence of war and political violence is one of the most important global political issues. Understanding the dynamics of violent conflict, and the approaches that can contribute to building and maintaining peace, is one of the most urgent tasks for academic research on politics. Violent conflicts are often much more embedded and complex than they appear to outside observers, but the experience of the peace process in Ireland demonstrates that negotiation and dialogue can contribute to narrowing the gap between parties that seem to be irreconcilable". Dr Ó Dochartaigh added: "Given Ireland's long history of contributing to United Nation's peacekeeping missions, and the Irish experience of the Troubles in recent decades, there are many people in Ireland with direct experience of these issues. One of the highlights of the conference for me will be the roundtable discussion on peacekeeping and the protection of civilians in peace support operations". An expert on Iraq who has also written extensively about conflict in Northern Ireland, Professor Brendan O Leary of the University of Pennsylvania, USA, will also speak at the event. His academic work played a significant role in shaping the new government and policing arrangements in Northern Ireland. Professor O'Leary is currently an international advisor to the Kurdistan National Assembly, responsible for advising on the constitutional reconstruction of Iraq and Kurdistan. Michael D. Higgins T.D., and Adjunct Professor with the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, will deliver an after-dinner speech at the conference dinner, entitled 'From Political Studies to Political Practice'. Further information on the conference and a full programme is available at www.psai.ie.