Former United States President Bill Clinton speaks at the Beanfield Centre in Toronto on Friday June 22, 2018. Picture: Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press via AP.
Peace in Northern Ireland wasn’t exactly a “quick win”.

It took around 389 years.

In Lessons from the Northern Ireland Peace Process, Timothy J White of the Institute of World Studies tries to extract simple lessons, from the complexity - analysing a wide range of research papers.

He had to walk back into history, to trace the conflict’s origins. Like the Plantation of Ulster, in 1609, in which “debtors, criminals and Presbyterians” landed on Irish soil, from Scotland and England.

Here are his 10 “lessons”:

“1: Various groups learned different lessons from the peace process, and their positions and identities evolved through the process” - ie: multiple perspectives, which were all fluid.

“2: Be as inclusive as possible of all parties when negotiating peace.

“3: There should be as few preconditions for negotiations as possible to encourage all to participate.

“4: Providing security is critical in peace processes.

“5: The role of third parties should not be exaggerated. However, they can play a positive role in mediating conflict.

“6: Economic aid is integral to peace-building and is part of a multitrack peace process.

“7: Peace processes are often negotiated by political elites, but it is important to focus on grass-roots reconciliation.

“8: Peace processes require intense engagement with the issues.

“9: “The peace process should support the moderates who take risks for peace so that they are not outflanked by critics (spoilers) of the peace process.

“10: Changes in world politics and the domestic circumstances may help the conditions that make peace more likely.”

Those are the author’s lessons, from decades-long attempts at peace, by leaders like Bill Clinton, John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern and many more.

And that was just on the surface.

Underground, counter-insurgency, counter-intelligence and covert wars raged - to position the chess pieces favourably on the board above.

Most lessons appear to be generic no-brainers. But ignore the basics at your peril. Back in RSA, many “wars” rage.

One is astounded by our internecine battles - self-sabotaging our collective efforts. Wrecking common purpose and stopping crucial momentum in its tracks.

Peace doesn’t happen by itself. It requires two crucial resources.

First: Extraordinary patience, to see proper process through.

As Henry Ford said: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

And, second: Sometimes, it’s not the people with the highest “security clearance” who forge the peace. But those with the highest “maturity clearance”.

Peace be with you.

* Murray Williams’ “Shooting from the Lip” column appears in the Cape Argus every Monday.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus