Mo Mowlam is largely credited with initiating a lasting peace process in Northern Ireland. In1998 she took a particular political risk by going inside the Maze Prison when it became clear that the peace process would only succeed with the backing of the prisoners. The loyalist UDA/UFF prisoners had previously withdrawn their support for the process. She spoke to the prisoners face-to-face for 60 minutes, and two hours later the paramilitaries’ political representatives announced they were being allowed to rejoin the talks.
Mowlam had established that although arms and violence seemed to be the manifesting obstacles to progress, years of meeting force with force had failed. The leverage point was at a higher logical level: accepting that the prevailing atmosphere was one of zero trust and working with it by ensuring that key stakeholders were listened to. Mowlam refused to consider the laying down of arms until other issues such as jobs and education had been addressed.
A simplified description of the barriers to resolution at that time would have included:
|History of violence and continuing retribution by both sides.||Anger at job discrimination.|
|Underlying criminality to provide funds for their activities.||No talks until “they” lay down their weapons.|
|Total mistrust of each other.||Long family memories.|
|Each side knowing they are “right”.||No expectation of success.|
|Republican suspicion of British Government cover-ups.||History of failed talks.|
|Loyalist feeling of being let down by the Government, especially with Mowlam being seen as soft on terrorism because of her desire to talk to the IRA and Sinn Féin.||Deep religious divide exacerbated by public symbolism (e.g. wall murals on one side and pipe bands on the other).|
By applying the questions “What is common to all of these or, what drives all of these?” it becomes evident that the initial answer probably sits somewhere in the region of total lack of trust. Resolution of this would certainly have positive consequences on most, if not all, of the defined barriers.
However, this does not immediately help as no-one can make people trust each other, it can only arise over time. One of Ms Mowlam’s key insights was that all parties got something from staying in perpetual dispute and that, unless she understood what that really was, the process could not move forward. Showing single-mindedness and significant personal courage she embarked on a deliberate policy of listening, not just to the traditional mouthpieces but also the hidden influences on power.
In terms of Graves’ Values, this is an excellent example of Level 7 (Yellow) thinking being applied to a problem spanning Levels 2 (Purple), 3 (Red) and 4 (Blue).