Forum for Peace and Reconciliation

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Not to be confused with Northern Ireland Forum.
File:Forum for Peace and Reconciliation logo.png
Stylised design combining a dove of peace and a hand extended for a handshake of reconciliation

The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation (Irish: an Fóram um Shíocháin agus Athmhuintearas[1]) was a forum established by the government of Ireland in October 1994 as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.[2]


The Forum was envisaged in paragraph 11 of the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993:[3][4]

The Irish Government would make their own arrangements within their jurisdiction to enable democratic parties to consult together and share in dialogue about the political future. The Taoiseach's intention is that these arrangements could include the establishment, in consultation with other parties, of a Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to make recommendations on ways in which agreement and trust between both traditions in Ireland can be promoted and established.

Preparations for the forum were triggered by the ceasefires announced in September 1994 by the republican Provisional IRA and loyalist UVF and UDA, whose associated political parties were thus invited to the forum.[3][5] Sinn Féin accepted, while the loyalist PUP and UDP rejected, as did the mainstream unionist UUP and DUP. The presence of Sinn Féin alongside constitutional nationalist and centrist parties was considered a significant "confidence building measure";[6][7] substantive negotiations involving the unionist parties and the British government would not being till the following year. The British ambassador was invited to the opening of the forum, but there was no other British involvement.[8] Its terms of reference were:[9]

The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation is being established by the Government in accordance with their intentions as expressed in the Joint Declaration, for as long as is necessary, to consult on and examine ways in which lasting peace, stability and reconciliation can be established by agreement among all the people of Ireland, and on the steps required to remove barriers of distrust, on the basis of promoting respect for the equal rights and validity of both traditions and identities. It will also explore ways in which new approaches can be developed to serve economic interests common to both parts of Ireland, including in the framework of European Union. It will be a fundamental guiding principle of the Forum and of participation in it that all differences relating to the exercise of the right of self-determination of the people of Ireland, and to all other matters, will be resolved exclusively by peaceful and democratic means. The purposes of the Forum will be to provide, as far as possible, an opportunity to both major traditions as well as to others, to assist in identifying and clarifying issues which could most contribute to creating a new era of trust and co-operation on the island. Participation in the Forum will be entirely without prejudice to the position on constitutional issues held by any Party.

Regular sessions

The forum's structure was modelled on the New Ireland Forum of 1983–84. It was chaired by Catherine McGuinness, then a judge of the Circuit Court, and had a secretariat with six members.[10] . McGuinness' Protestant background was hoped to encourage unionist engagement with the forum.[11] It first met in Saint Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle on 28 October 1994.[12] It had 41 plenary sessions and commissioned several reports, and subcommittees began drafting responses to the reports.[13] After the publication of the Joint Framework Document in February 1995, this became the focus of much of the Forum's deliberations.[3]

The forum was drafting a final report "Paths to a Political Settlement: Realities, Principles and Requirements", which was leaked to the press on 2 February 1996.[13] It was believed that Sinn Féin was objecting to the report's recognition of the "principle of consent"/"Unionist veto".[2] The Forum published the draft in its "95% agreement" state.[13][14] The Canary Wharf bombing on 9 February ended the IRA ceasefire and, with the continued participation of Sinn Féin in question, the Forum was adjourned.[2][13]

Obstacles in the South to Reconciliation

Paragraph 6 of the Downing Street Declaration stated in part:[4]

In recognition of the fears of the Unionist community and as a token of his willingness to make a personal contribution to the building up of that necessary trust, the Taoiseach will examine with his colleagues any elements in the democratic life and organisation of the Irish State that can be represented to the Irish Government in the course of political dialogue as a real and substantial threat to their way of life and ethos, or that can be represented as not being fully consistent with a modern democratic and pluralist society, and undertakes to examine any possible ways of removing such obstacles.

Several of the reports the Forum commissioned addressed this issue, and a subcommittee was established on Obstacles in the South to Reconciliation.[15] It considered the reports and made a draft report recommending changes to the Constitution of Ireland, as well as changing the Irish national anthem and tricolour flag.[16] Details of its draft proposals were leaked in 1998.[16][17] When the Forum was revived in 2002, the draft report was not published as it was felt the intervening events had rendered it obsolete.[13][15]


There were separate delegations for each political party with elected representatives in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland, as well as independents, with "a democratic mandate and a commitment to resolving political differences by exclusively peaceful and democratic means".[3] Unionist and loyalist parties refused to participate as delegates, though some unionists made presentations to the delegates in the public sessions. The delegations were proportional to parties' electoral strength, as follows:[10]

Party No. of delegates Delegates Alternates
Fianna Fáil 9 Bertie Ahern, Mary O'Rourke, Albert Reynolds, Noel Dempsey, Jim McDaid, Séamus Kirk, Ann Ormonde, Éamon Ó Cuív, Brian Lenihan, Snr (died 1995) Charlie McCreevy, Jimmy Leonard, Joe Jacob, Brendan Daly
SDLP 5 John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Eddie McGrady, Joe Hendron, Bríd Rodgers Sean Farren, Denis Haughey, Mark Durkan, John Fee, Alex Attwood
Fine Gael 6 John Bruton, Austin Currie, Olivia Mitchell, Andrew Boylan, Paul Bradford, Frances Fitzgerald John Connor, Helen O'Donnell, Tom Honan
Labour 5 Dick Spring, Ruairi Quinn, Brian Fitzgerald, Ann Gallagher, Jan O'Sullivan Seán Kenny, Seán Malone
Sinn Féin 3 Gerry Adams, Pat Doherty, Lucilita Bhreathnach Martin McGuinness, Dodie McGuinness
Progressive Democrats 2 Mary Harney, Des O'Malley Bobby Molloy, Michael McDowell
Alliance 3 John Alderdice, Seamus Close, Seán Neeson Philip McGarry, Stewart Dickson
Democratic Left 2 Proinsias De Rossa, Seamus Lynch Liz McManus
Green Party 1 Trevor Sargent Vincent MacDowell
Independent TDs 1 Neil Blaney (died 1995) Tom Foxe
Independent Senators 1 Joe O'Toole, David Norris, Mary Henry, Feargal Quinn, Joe Lee (Each nominee served as delegate and alternate in rotation.)
Workers' Party 1 John Lowry
"Attended in a personal capacity"[3] 1 Gordon Wilson (died 1995)[13]

There were observers from the European Parliament (Piet Dankert and Leo Tindemans) and the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body.[3]


The forum's public sessions were typically held once a week.[3] The proceedings were subsequently published by the Stationery Office, Dublin:[18]

No. Dates ISBN Themes
1 28 October 1994 ISBN 0-7076-1503-8 Inauguration
2 3, 18 November 1994 ISBN 0-7076-1504-6
3 16 December 1994 ISBN 0-7076-1506-2 "The Economic consequences of Peace": "Building on the Peace Dividend", "Investing in Peace", "The American Role", and "The Role of the European Union"
4 20 January 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1507-0 "Participation in Social and Economic Reconstruction - sharing the Peace Dividend"
5 10 February 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1683-2 Presentation from Roy Garland; Debate on parity of esteem
6 17 February 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1655-7 Tourism; North-South Co-operation; the Washington Conference for Trade and Investment in Ireland
7 24 February 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1656-5 "Social and Economic Reconstruction - Securing the Rights and Interests of Children and Young People"
8 3 March 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1657-3 "North-South Co-operation in Agriculture and Agribusiness"
9 10 March 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1658-1 Policing
10 23 March 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1659-X Presentations from 'Forum for Change' and 'Northern Consensus' groups
11 24 March 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1684-0 Presentation by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Debate on "Fundamental Rights and Freedoms"
12 31 March 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1660-3 Presentation by Committee on the Administration of Justice and Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Debate on justice
13 7 April 1995 ISBN 0-7076-1697-2 Presentations by Colin Crawford and by 'Religious for Justice and Peace' and 'Drumcree Faith and Justice Group'
14 11 April 1995 [19]
15 12 April 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2340-5 Presentations by Robin Wilson and Simon Lee, the West Belfast Economic Forum and the Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland
16 5 May 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2341-3 Constitutional Issues in the Light of "A New Framework for Agreement" and other documents
17 12 May 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2454-1
18 19 May 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2413-4
19 2 June 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2414-2
20 9 June 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2415-0
21 16 June 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2416-9
22 23 June 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2417-7
23 30 June 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2342-1 Tributes on the death of Gordon Wilson
24 7 July 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2418-5 Presentation by Bow Group; review of work programme.[20]
25 14 July 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2419-3 protection of rights; economic benefits of peace; obstacles in the South to reconciliation.[21]
26 29 September 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2420-7 Debate on Reconciliation[22]
27 6 October 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2421-5 Debate on the role of education in achieving reconciliation[23]
28 20 October 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2422-3 Presentations from Norman Porter; Sam McAughtry; Meath Peace Group; The Interaction Group[22]
29 10 November 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2423-1 Presentations from Campbell & Hadden and Bradley on their respective studies.[24]
30 17 November 1995 Victims of violence; prisoners' issues.[25]
31 21 November 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2425-8
32 15 December 1995 ISBN 0-7076-2426-6 Presentation of the five studies commissioned by the subcommittee on Obstacles in the South to Reconciliation[26]
33 19 January 1996 ISBN 0-7076-2427-4 Presentation from the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference.[27]

Later work

The Northern Ireland Forum established in 1996 became the focus of the peace process, with the relevance of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation called into question.[2] After the IRA restored its ceasefire,[28] in 1997, new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern envisaged further meetings "on an occasional basis".[29] One was held on 5 December 1997, at which Ahern broached the possibility of amending Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution;[30] after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement this was effected by a 1999 referendum. Based on the results of 1996 elections to the Northern Ireland Forum, invitations to the 1997 meeting were received and accepted by the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition and Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) as well as the previous parties.[13] Maurice Hayes replaced Gordon Wilson among the independent Senators.[13]

Asked about the Forum in 1999, Ahern said:[31]

I said that I believed, in the context of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, it would be preferable to see the primary axis for future island-wide consultation being the joint parliamentary forum and the independent consultative forum, envisaged in paragraphs 18 and 19, respectively, of strand two of the Good Friday Agreement. In that event, while it would be a matter for the chairperson and the participating parties, I envisage a final concluding meeting of the forum.

There were suggestions that it be revived in 2000 after the suspension of the Northern Ireland Executive,[32] and again in December.[33] Ahern said at the time, "It might come to that point but there are some other ideas we must try first. If it is going nowhere however, I will consider it".[34] It was reconvened in late 2002 after further suspension of the Assembly following spying allegations.[35][36] As Catherine McGuinness had in the meantime been appointed to the Supreme Court, Maurice Hayes replaced her as chairman.[13] Compared to the 1997 delegates, the NILP was absent while the Socialist Party was present.[37] One session discussed the Holy Cross dispute in Belfast.[38] The Forum's 2002–3 meetings failed to ameliorate the deadlock in the peace process.[2]

In 2005, Mark Durkan of the SDLP called for it to be reconvened.[39] In 2007, Ahern told the Dáil, "With the restoration of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, there are no current proposals to reconvene the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation."[40] In 2011, Senator Paul Bradford enquired anbout the Forum's status and suggested it might be revived as a truth and reconciliation commission.[41]


The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and the National Economic and Social Forum provided a model for the National Forum on Europe established in 2001 after the referendum rejecting the Treaty of Nice.[42][43]


Some of the Forum's commissioned reports and submissions were published.[13]

See also: § Proceedings
  • Paths to a political settlement in Ireland: policy papers submitted to The Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Blackstaff Press. 1995. ISBN 978-0-85640-566-2. 
  • KPMG Management Consulting; Fitzpatrick Associates; Colin Stutt Consulting; Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre (1995). The social and economic consequences of peace and economic reconstruction. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-7076-1645-2. 
  • Boyle, Kevin; Campbell, Colm; Hadden, Tom (1996). The protection of human rights in the context of peace and reconciliation in Ireland. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-7076-2308-5. 
  • Eide, Asbjørn (1996). A review and analysis of constructive approaches to group accommodation and minority protection in divided or multicultural societies. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-7076-2309-2. 
  • Bradley, John (1996). An island economy: exploring long-term economic and social consequences of peace and reconciliation in the island of Ireland. Stationery Office. ISBN 978-0-7076-2310-8.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  • Building trust in Ireland. Blackstaff Press. 1996. ISBN 0-85640-577-9.  consisting of five studies commissioned by the subcommittee on Obstacles in the South to Reconciliation:[13]
Study Author Institution
Obstacles to Reconciliation in the South Arthur Aughey University of Ulster Jordanstown
A Unionist Legal Perspective on Obstacles in the South to Better Relations with the North Brice Dickson University of Ulster
The Role of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland 1922–1995 Dermot Keogh University College, Cork
Religious Minorities in the Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland 1922–1995 Terence Brown Trinity College, Dublin
Factors affecting Population Decline in Minority Religious Communities in the Republic of Ireland J.J. Sexton Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin
Richard O'Leary Nuffield College, Oxford

See also


  1. an Fóram um Shíocháin agus Athmhuintearas
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Gillespie, Gordon (2009-09-30). "Forum for Peace and Reconciliation". The A to Z of the Northern Ireland Conflict. Scarecrow Press. pp. 110–111. ISBN 978-0-8108-6882-3. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "Background to the Forum". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 1996. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Joint Declaration 1993 (Downing St. Declaration) Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland
  5. Dáil 12 Oct 1994 p.6
  6. Murdoch, Alan (1 September 1994). "IRA Ceasefire: Reynolds says statement means 'no going back': The view from Dublin". The Independent. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  7. Devenport, Mark (22 November 2002). "Another case of talks fatigue?". BBC Online. Retrieved 4 February 2012. Last time the Forum met its purpose was to welcome Sinn Féin into the ranks of democratic politics. 
  8. HC Deb 1 December 1994 vol 250 cc1315-6
  9. "Terms of Reference". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Members of the Forum". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  11. Clarity, James F. (3 April 1995). "Presbyterians, in Peace Forum, Tell Their Fears of Dublin". The New York Times. p. 7. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  12. Dáil 26 Oct 1994 p.10
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 "Reconvening of Forum for Peace and Reconciliation" (Press release). Department of the Taoiseach. 7 November 2002. 
  14. See Publications
  15. 15.0 15.1 Dáil 5 April 2000 p.22
  16. 16.0 16.1 Dowling, Brian (11 August 1998). "Threatening to sound death knell for the Angelus bell". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  17. Dowling, Brian (11 August 1998). "Drop the Angelus and axe anthem". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  18. "Reports of Proceedings". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  19. "Forum thanks group for its 'list of horrors'". The Irish Times. 12 April 1995. p. 6. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  20. "British Conservative Party Group to address Peace Forum". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 5 July 1995. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  21. "Forum to discuss the economic benefits of peace and the protection of rights". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 11 July 1995. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Press Releases from the Forum Secratariat". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  23. "Forum to debate role of Education in Reconciliation". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  24. "Forum Session - Friday 10 November". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 8 November 1995. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  25. "Forum session - Friday 17 November". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 15 November 1995. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  26. "New Studies to be presented to the Forum". Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 12 December 1995. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  27. "Forum commences work for New Year". Internet Archive. Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. 11 January 1996. Archived from the original on 2 October 1999. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  28. "Irish Government to reconvene Peace Forum". Northern Ireland News. 4NI. 8 November 2002. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  29. Dáil 18 November 1997
  30. Clarity, James F. (6 December 1997). "Dublin Says It Might Drop Claim to North in Future". The New York Times. p. 8. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  31. Dáil 24 Nov 1999
  32. Dáil 29 Mar 2000 p.32
  33. Dáil 13 Dec 2000 p.7
  34. McKenna, Gene (2 March 2000). "Ahern, Blair in bid to restart North process". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  35. "Reid set to suspend assembly". BBC. 14 October 2002. 
  36. McG, G (27 November 2002). "Cross-border peace forum is 'waste of time' says Nesbitt - Northern Ireland News". Northern Ireland News. 4NI. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  37. Forum for Peace and Reconciliation Slugger O'Toole
  38. "Holy Cross priest reveals loyalist death threats". 22 January 2003. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  39. McGinn, Dan (11 May 2005). "Durkan rejects Fianna Fáil pact". Irish Independent. 
  40. Dáil 18 Dec 2007
  41. Dáil 26 October 2011 p.4
  42. What is the Forum? National Forum on Europe
  43. Dáil 12 June 2001 p.16

External links