The international ‘Poisonous Legacies’ conference held over the weekend in Derry’s Guildhall has been hailed as “an amazing experience” by its joint organisers, the Pat Finucane Centre and Bloody Sunday Trust.
International speakers filled the fully-restored main hall for a frank and often harrowing discussion on their experiences of conflict and efforts made in rebuilding peaceful societies. The conference marked three years since the Bloody Sunday Report, and featured speakers from the Middle East, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, Italy and Ireland.
The audience listened intently as speakers recounted experiences of conflict and how best to deal with the ‘poisonous legacies’ left behind.
“The entire conference was a great success,” Paul O’Connor of the PFC told the ‘Journal’ yesterday. “We were very fortunate to have so many great
speakers from abroad and learn about their various legacies. It’s been an amazing experience and the feedback has been fantastic.”
Mr O’Connor described the international guests as “both impressing and impressed”, and said they found the whole conference very valuable. “Certainly, we believe it fulfilled our goal of Purposeful Inquiry and was an incredible experience to be part of. And while it’s hard to pick out a highlight, it was definitely a fitting end to have the In Conversation event with Robert Fisk.”
Fisk, the Independent’s distinguished Middle East correspondent, was a keynote speaker and told the audience in Derry that if the United States decided to arm “nice Syrian rebels” - the Free Syrian Army members fighting President Assad - then the weapons would eventually end up in the hands of its al-Qaida-inspired enemy.
“Fisk spoke to a packed house and, as always, delivered a fascinating insight into the actual situation in Syria,” O’Connor said, “and coming from someone living and working in Beirut, as Robert Fisk does, we found it very useful and very helpful.”
Others who addressed the conference included former member of the Colombian National Assembly, Aida Avella, who has survived four assassination attempts. Ian Cobain, investigative reporter for The Guardian, was another key speaker.
Cobain believes that such events are of growing importance. “I think conferences like this are a very good idea and clearly arise out of a growing recognition that many governments are not going to establish a reconciliation or truth-recovery process, so people are going to have to do it for themselves - which is probably no bad thing really.”
Cobain is no stranger to Derry and described the current 2013 City of Culture as a “really beautiful city” whose people are “incredibly friendly.”
The two-day conference was a 2013 Culture event. www.poisonouslegacies2013.org