Almost 20 years on from the Good Friday agreement , The Colombian government is making peace with the FARC rebels and there is a strong Irish connection to the process.
After more than 50 years of fighting, and four years of negotiations, 2016 saw a breakthrough in the long- running armed conflict in Colombia. A tentative peace was arranged with more than 15,000 fighters from the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and other groups agreeing to move to transitional camps and allowing the re-integration of the areas they had occupied into mainstream Colombian society. During the peace talks, a number of Irish politicians, veterans of the Irish peace process and from both sides of the divide, visited the negotiations taking place in Havana, Cuba. Sharing their experience of de-escalating the conflict in Northern Ireland, they gave support to all sides in the talks. A former Irish foreign minister was appointed EU special representative to the peace process as Europe contributed towards the settlement.
How does the resolution of the conflict in Colombia compare with the Irish peace process? Although many aspects are different, what lessons can be learned from the strategies used in the Irish process and what can the Colombian course of action offer as a lesson to the North? For long periods during the conflict rebel areas operated as a shadow state with people separated from the rest of Colombian society. What was life like under the FARC and how easy will the transition be for everybody involved? Will the peace bring changes to coca production and Narco trafficking associated with rebel areas and how will that affect the lives of rural dwellers.
Luke Holland has lived and worked in Colombia and has observed the changes there and in Northern Ireland over recent decades. He returns to Columbia to meet the newly demobilised FARC fighters and others who have suffered during the long conflict. He meets those opposed to the peace process who believe the only solution is to destroy the FARC completely. The areas previously under rebel control are now feeling a power vacuum and concern is growing over human rights in rural areas. What contribution can the EU and other outside agencies make to the fragile peace in Colombia?
Produced by Tim Desmond and Luke Holland.
Sound supervision by Mark Dwyer
First broadcast October 14th 2017
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One, the home of Irish radio documentaries.