Past Program

Oct 15 - Oct 18, 2004

Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation: Northern Ireland Conference



Institute for Historical

Justice and Reconciliation


The Practical Application of History for the Contemporary World






SUMMARY: The Northern Ireland Project of the IHJR engages prominent historians and public figures from Northern Ireland, and other countries that have been party to peace efforts, in an effort to dispel public myths surrounding key historic events that continue to inflame public opinion and violence.


In the course of the last several decades, there have been a number of initiatives to facilitate reconciliation between the separatist and unionist factions, as a means of achieving a durable peace in Northern Ireland. These efforts culminated in April 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. Despite the promise of reconciliation that came with the signing of agreement, the reconciliation process has been impeded by innumerable stalemates and continuing violence.


The IHJR believes strongly that one of the necessary building-blocks towards peace-building is a clear understanding of historical facts from all sides of a conflict. By convening respected historians from each group, the IHJR facilitates the writing and dissemination as a consensus history.


The IHJR Northern Ireland Project is being conceived as a "building block" to contribute to the process of reconciliation. It has been launched with the strong endorsement of several Seminar alumni: Monica McWilliams, a signatory of the Good Friday Agreement; Paul Arthur, a key participant in reconciliation efforts since the 1960s; and Hervé Dupuy, Unit Ireland & United Kingdom, Directorate-General for Regional Policy, European Commission.


The IHJR will be cooperating in this project with the INCORE office in Londonderry. Established in 1993, INCORE (Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity) is a joint project of the United Nations University <> and the University of Ulster <>.




From October 15-18th, 2004, the IHJR convened a three-day planning meeting to outline the parameters for a Northern Ireland Project, provisionally titled, "Past Legacy-Future Prospects: Building Blocks for Peace." The planning meeting was held at the Salzburg Seminar and involved 15 prominent historians and public figures from Northern Ireland, who have been involved in the peace process.



As currently planned, the Northern Ireland Project will last for five years, and will convene two to three meetings annually, some in the region and some outside the region. The ultimate goal of these meetings will be two-fold:


1. To engage historians in establishing a "consensus history" that will acknowledge a set of accepted historic facts;


2. To engage public figures, political and religious leaders, educators, and public commentators, in bringing the results to a broad public.


Although millions of pounds have been spent on research into the historic roots of the conflict, there has been no effort to date to establish an unbiased, accurate roster of historical events that are thoroughly researched and published by respected scholars and historians. In the context of Northern Ireland, the creation of a "consensus history" is complicated by the fact that many events involve acts of violent crimes, in particular, murders, which have not only historic significance but also legal implications.


The IHJR believes that by bringing respected scholars from each side to collaborate on a common history that each group can endorse, the initial building blocks toward the process of reconciliation will be laid.