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Contribution of former prisoners to conflict transformation highlighted at Queen’s University, Belfast

Former loyalist and republican prisoners have made a positive contribution to conflict transformation in Northern Ireland: That’s according to the first detailed study of the role of former prisoners in reconstructing communities in the wake of the conflict here.

‘Beyond the Wire: Former Prisoners and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland’ will be launched tomorrow (Friday 29 February 2008) at The Bookshop at Queen’s.

Dr Peter Shirlow and Professor Kieran McEvoy from the School of Law at Queen’s University are co-authors of the book.

Dr Shirlow said: “Beyond the Wire looks at the positive role of former prisoners and ex-combatants in grass-roots conflict transformation. This book highlights the central role of ex-prisoners in rebuilding communities that were affected by the conflict here. It also explores their involvement in developing new and practical ways for communities to explore their troubled pasts and resolve the conflict that has blighted them for decades.”

Professor McEvoy said: “Former republican and loyalist prisoners have provided valuable leadership during challenging times in Northern Ireland and against the backdrop of a culture of violence. They have done some of the most difficult and unglamorous work of peace-building in reducing interface violence, negotiating around contentious parades and leading local debates on truth recovery and dealing with the past.

“We are not naive enough to think that each and every ex-prisoner is a saint. Nonetheless, ten years after early releases began, of the 450 prisoners released early, 20 have had their licences revoked. 16 of these were for terrorist related activities. This compares to a general re-offending rate of 48 per cent within two years for ‘ordinary prisoners’ in Northern Ireland. Difficult and painful though it was, the early release part of the peace process has been a significant success.”

Dr Shirlow concluded: “Beyond the Wire challenges common misconceptions about former prisoners that often lead to them being excluded from normal civic and social life. It reminds us of the need for both former combatants and victims to participate in post-conflict transformation in our society.”

Beyond the Wire, which is published by Pluto Press, will be launched at The Bookshop at Queens at 5.30pm-7.30pm on Friday 29 February 2007, with special guest speakers Ms Dawn Purvis MLA and Mr Michael Ritchie, Former Director of Coiste na nIarchimi.

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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