Peace building conference in Derry

Northern Ireland will host a major peace-building conference in Derry next month with a line-up of international speakers. The aim of the conference is to enable groups and policy makers from across Northern Ireland and beyond to engage with a range of inspirational people who will bring their global perspectives on peace building.

The ‘Hope Beyond Hurt’ conference is organized as part of a project which has included the lighting of the City gates, a range of peace-building programmes, events and exhibitions, and will culminate this summer with the opening of the City Centre Garden of Reflection, a major shared-space and resource for community relations and cross-border relationship building in the heart of the city.

Helen Quigley and Eamon Deane launch the conference

Helen Quigley and Eamon Deane launch the conference

The project is funded through the European Union’s PEACE III Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, and is a partnership between Inner City Trust, which is the Lead Partner, Derry City Council and DiverseCity Community Partnership.

Speakers attending the conference include Giles Duley, a world-renowned photo-journalist severely injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) explosion in Afghanistan, who will also be showing his ‘One Second of Light’ exhibition. Also attending is Laila Atshan from Ramallah in Palestine, a highly respected psychologist and consultant for UNICEF who has worked with trauma victims in conflict zones such as Dafur and Iraq.

Launching the conference programme, Helen Quigley, CEO of Inner City Trust, said:

“The City Centre Garden of Reflection is a unique project which will transform a derelict and underused space into a shared space in the heart of the City Centre. We envisage that the garden will be accessed by those who live in the City, as well as attracting visitors from all over Northern Ireland and beyond.

“The Peace Bridge has been a phenomenal success and our vision for the Garden of Reflection is to be a new bridge, an ‘urban bridge’ that helps reintegrate our communities in the City Centre and evolves into a natural meeting point for all our citizens.

“The underlying concept behind the Garden is to create an inspiring shared space where everyone will feel welcome to reflect, meet, engage and relax. As part of that the ‘Hope Beyond Hurt’ conference, which will highlight some incredibly powerful and sometimes difficult personal stories, will help us to reflect on how individuals and communities can better accommodate each other.”

Eamonn Deane, Chairperson of Holywell Trust, added:

“Holywell Trust has been involved in peace-building for over 25-years, but the Garden of Reflection and the ‘Hope Beyond Hurt’ conference are the most exciting and ambitious projects which we have embarked on.

“The conference is an opportunity for policy makers and peace influencers to examine themes such as international conflict, peace and reconciliation with people who have been at the sharp end of some of the most destructive conflicts of recent times.

“Peacebuilding doesn’t happen by accident, it takes hard work, compromise and people of goodwill. In Derry we have seen the out-workings of that commitment in many areas, but peacebuilding is a process, not a one-off occurrence.

“We are delighted to welcome so many highly regarded speakers to Northern Ireland, drawn from the worlds of journalism, the arts, urban development and conflict resolution. Northern Ireland’s troubled past is not unique, but this conference will help provide some global perspectives on how we can build a truly shared society.”

The ‘Hope Beyond Hurt’ conference will take place in Holywell-Diverscity Community Partnership on 15th and 16th April. Speakers will include:

Laila Atshan - psychologist and consultant for UNICEF.  Born blind to a Palestinian refugee family, Laila counsels people with disabilities, refugees, prisoners and survivors of political / domestic violence.

Giles Duley - British photojournalist severely injured while on patrol with the US Army in Afghanistan.  Focusses now on humanitarian projects with work published in titles such as Vogue, GQ, Esquire and Rolling Stone.

Mairéad McClean – award-winning filmmaker, born in Co. Tyrone. Her most recent video ‘No More’, won the inaugural MAC International Art Prize in 2014.  Themes include memory, identity and migration, and her work disrupts and restructures events from the past highlighting the unreliability of both history and memory.   Mairéad will be joined by her father, Paddy-Joe McClean, one of the ‘Hooded Men’.

Teya Sepinuck- Founder of Theatre of Witness - gives voice to those whose stories haven’t been heard, including survivors and perpetrators of abuse, prisoners & their families, refugees, immigrants and those who have lived through war. 

Steve Wessler - works internationally with law enforcement agencies, NGOs and communities, among others, on conflict resolution. Worked with the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe on hate crime issues.

Phil Wood - Principal Advisor to the Council of Europe’s ‘Intercultural Cities’ project. Specialises in transformation of post-industrial cities through physical infrastructure, creativity and emotional / cultural forces which shape a place and its people.

Attendance at the two-day conference is open to groups, individuals and policy makers involved in peace building and community relations across Northern Ireland and beyond. Attendance is free but tickets must be reserved in advance. For further information please visit: