Iraqi Party Leaders Learn from Ireland’s Political Past

From June 18-24, the International Republican Institute (IRI) hosted a delegation of eight senior Iraqi political and government officials to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The delegation included party leaders and Council of Representative members from Iraq’s eight major political parties seated in the National Assembly.

During the trip, the delegation saw how government and political officials bridged politically sensitive sectarian divides. The delegation attended a series of meetings with Irish and British officials in Belfast and Dublin. The members explored the process that led to the Good Friday accord, which called for a political power share between Ireland’s Protestants and Catholics, leading to the end of sectarian violence, which had claimed thousands of lives.

While in Belfast, the delegates met with senior leaders from Northern Ireland’s five major political parties, including Speaker of the Dail (Irelands lower House of Parliament) Dr. Rory O’Hanlon. Iraqi delegation leader Adnan Pachachi, and IRI Resident Program Director Alan Silverleib then testified before the Dail’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on the latest developments in Iraq and IRI’s Iraq programs. The other delegation members also participated in an extended question-and-answer session with committee members. They also discussed possible ways to expand Ireland’s role in the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq.

The delegation later met with representatives of the Anglo-Irish Affairs Bureau in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern, and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland James Kenny to discuss their roles the in the Irish peace process.

On June 23, the delegates participated in a peace and reconciliation conference sponsored by Glencree, an Irish-based international organization that draws on the Irish experience in establishing different reconciliation goals in troubled areas around the world. Glencree has worked in Haiti, the West Bank and Gaza, Eastern Europe, and Africa.

Through the study tour, delegates were encouraged to pursue peace and reconciliation among their parties while having a better sense of how to cooperate with rival political groups in establishing legislation.

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