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Conflict. As Natural As Breathing

By Elizabeth Collins

Seamus Farrell has been working internationally in conflict resolution for over thirty years. He has contributed his expertise with mediation and conflict management to efforts in Bosnia, Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, and Northern Ireland. In his opinion, there is nothing wrong with conflict, it is as natural as breathing, it is what we do with it that matters.

While Seamus believes that it will take many things working together to bring true peace to Northern Ireland.  He keeps a Gandhi quote close to his heart; “If you want peace in the world you have to begin with children”.  In the late 1980’s since he had been involved in conflict resolution in so many other countries, Seamus decided he wanted to contribute to the peace building efforts in his home country of Ireland. An opportunity in the education system allowed him to work with the children of Northern Ireland during The Troubles. His program introduced primary school children to managing conflicts in a valuable way through mediation.

Seamus at The Diamond War Memorial
in protest of celebrating violence.
Mediation training for students was adapted to ensure that it was kid friendly. It was fun based, interactive, and involved communication and respect games. The program was centered on changing schools to be a relationship friendly place. Children and teachers learned problem solving skills and that conflict holders are responsible for finding their own solution. Seamus believes that schools should have a congruent, respectful ethos that promotes communication and valuable conflict management for all parties within the education process.

While Seamus believes that teaching the next generation how to effectively problem solve is a step in the right direction, he now supports the peace process in other significant ways. Through The Junction’s Towards Understanding and Healing program (TUH) he contributes to efforts that support proper truth recovery, victim compensation no matter the party, and reconciliation. Seamus is also involved in The Junction’s Ethical and Shared Remembering project. When asked if he believed in the ripple effect he recited a quote from Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has”. He thinks that it is imperative to recognize that just because the violence has stopped does not mean there is peace; this is only the beginning of the road to peace. He truly believes that if the people in Northern Ireland are not committed and serious about sharing a future then they run the risk of repeating history. 

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