Community and Political Dialogue


The process of community and political dialogue has its origins in the early 1990’s when the political parties from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain first gathered at Glencree to discuss the emerging circumstances around the period of the ceasefire. Introduced by Glencree's Ian White and Geoffrey Corry, these early efforts in dialogue ran for over 12 years through the period of the negotiations and subsequent implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

The dialogue workshops involved the creation of confidential, safe spaces where parties and individuals returned each month to discuss relevant trends in the political atmosphere of the time. Through this process, key relationships emerged between the parties, individuals and community leaders involved.

With the formation of the Executive within the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007, the need for such intensive levels of private political engagement decreased, thus reducing the frequency of the political dialogues at Glencree. However, while many aspects of the Agreement were functioning, by 2012 the very difficult topic of Legacy - the lingering issues and pain from the past conflict - emerged as a key stumbling block to deeper reconciliation.

It became evident that healing was not going to occur unless significant and sustained efforts were made to enable those affected by conflict to share their experiences, to hear and be heard, and to have their pain and loss acknowledged by those who may have been responsible. Only then could reconciliation begin to emerge.


Programme Summary

Dealing with the legacy of past conflict is now a key focus of Glencree’s work in the area of Community and Political Dialogue. Central to this is the process of examining how the narratives of different communities have been built and developed, and how they play an essential role in the way we see each other. It is essential that these narratives are accurate and not distorted by misconceptions.

Throughout our inclusive dialogue process, the participants control the agenda and agree the issues for discussion, while Glencree, as facilitator, controls the process. This process is based on the essential principles of: mutual respect, the importance of listening, and the assurance of confidentiality. We place a strong emphasis on the use of the Chatham House Rule among participants wishing to engage through our process. Some of our dialogue work is of such a sensitive nature that it is kept strictly confidential.

In the political space more broadly, Glencree continues to manage conversations about Brexit and its potential to undo much of the progress made since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Brexit represents a profound disturbance in the positive relationships between the North and South, and between the U.K. and Ireland.

What the Brexit process has demonstrated is a clear need to continue dialogue at political level to ensure ongoing engagement and avoid the risk of misunderstanding and estrangement should other unforeseen issues create political uncertainty in the future. Running parallel to the issue of legacy, this has been the most challenging aspect of our political dialogue in recent years.


Programme Activities

For reasons of confidentiality, the detail of much of the work associated with our Community and Political Dialogue programme remains private to ensure confidence in the process for those taking part. An outline of some of our work includes:

  • Continuing and frequent dialogue involving political, official, and community actors drawn from across the island
  • A renewed focus on the role of women and younger people who are emerging as new political leaders within political parties and other organisations from civil society
  • A continuing effort to reach out to victims and survivors seeking answers to the legacy of the past and to host dialogue opportunities to address the questions they have and the challenges they face in getting information about incidents that occurred during the troubles. One activity undertaken by Glencree in this area was to host relatives of those who lost their lives in the Birmingham Pub Bombings for a three-day series of private dialogue sessions and facilitated meetings. This video captures a visual sense of that visit.

  • Ongoing engagement with the EU Ambassadors and diplomatic corps based in Ireland in relation to the EU’s relationship with the island of Ireland and the peace process more generally. This video provides a visual overview of one of the more recent events in our Ambassador Briefing Series.

  • Briefing visiting dignitaries including Heads of State and Foreign Ministers from around the world on the experience of building and sustaining peace, as well as the management of relationships in a post-conflict society.

Statement to the Joint Oireachtas Committee On the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement (May 2024)

The Project Team

Pat Hynes

Programme Manager

Leading Glencree’s Community & Political Dialogue Programme since 2015, Pat brings a wealth of experience from the political arena. Throughout the 1990s, Pat worked with various government ministers in the early years of the Peace Process, later participating in Glencree’s Political Dialogue workshops leading up to the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement.

His international work spans over 15 years, including participation in Glencree’s Middle East Programme, working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More recently, Pat acted as Special Advisor to Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in his role as Chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission. This role involved working with the United Nations as they sought to bring to a conclusion the Papua New Guinea / Bougainville peace process.

Pat is part of the adjunct faculty in Maynooth University where he lectures and works with the Edward M Kennedy Institute for Conflict Resolution.

Terri O'Brien

Programme Coordinator

Terri is the Programme Coordinator on the Community & Political Dialogue Programme. A certified mediator from the Mediators Institute of Ireland, she comes to the team with strong experience in administration and accounting in the private and public sectors. She joined Glencree in October 2020 after several years at St. Vincent’s Private Hospital following a successful career in financial administration primarily across the tech sector.

Her special responsibilities within the Political Dialogue Team include working with, and coordinating meetings of, the 27 EU resident ambassadors on issues related to Brexit, the Protocol, and Northern Ireland. Terri also has responsibility for Glencree’s relationships with other embassies outside of the EU including the UK, Canada, and the United States. Her responsibilities also include the organisation and management of visits by Foreign Ministers and dignitaries, as well as participating in dialogues and discussions with them.

Terri has a coordinating role within the Political Dialogue Programme and also works in areas including the legacy of the recent troubles in Northern Ireland, international work including current conflicts in Africa, and the descendants of the Anglo-Irish Treaty Generation who are exploring themes as part of the centenary commemoration on the birth of the Irish State.

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