Date: 26/11/2014

Bridge of Hope, a programme of Ashton Community Trust, is holding a conference today(Wednesday November 26) in the Europa Hotel to shine a light on conflict transformation and peace building experiences both here and in Berlin.

The conference is the closing set-piece of an EU PEACE III funded project ‘Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future’ that sought to reengage with marginalised loyalist and republican communities from right across the North over the last 3 years.

With the recent 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, this unique conference will look at how both places have moved beyond violent conflict and are now in the transition phase.

The ‘Building Peace to Last’ themed conference takes place in the Europa Hotel and starts at 9.30am and will close at 3pm.

It will be addressed by OFMDFM Junior Minister Jennifer McCann and will hear from Eilish Rooney, senior lecturer at Ulster University and associate of Transitional Justice Institute as well as keynote speaker Beatrix Austin from the Berghof Foundation in Berlin. Other stakeholders including participants from both republicans and loyalist traditions will share their experiences too.

Irene Sherry (Head of Victims & Mental Health Services, Ashton Community Trust) said she hoped the conference will show the full extent of the capacity for different perspectives of the conflict to flourish in the same space.

“We are very proud of the work Bridge of Hope has been involved in over the last three years in bringing grassroots communities together, often in periods of great difficulty. This conference highlights not only the importance of that work taking place but also the many positives that derive from it.  It was our firm determination from the outset that this project wouldn’t just involve grassroots communities but more importantly be led by them. This conference is a clear outworking of that process and is another central component in maintaining positive engagement and hearing each other’s voices and viewpoints.”

The conference is the culmination of the ‘Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future’ project in its endeavours to support marginalised republican and loyalist communities. Delivery of the project involved two initiatives ‘Who Am I?’ And ‘Making Sense of the Past in the Present and finally exploratory site visits to Berlin looking at the themes of peacebuilding and conflict transformation..  Participation involved areas such as Gulladuff, Bangor, South Armagh, North Down & Ards, Derry, North Belfast and West Belfast.