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Western celebrates women

Whenever Americans hear of Ireland, we often envision fighting Irishmen, angry Leprechauns and exorbitant drinking on St. Patrick’s Day. Dr. Ed Taylor, assistant professor of political science, revealed to Western students and staff a piece of Irish history that is often forgotten— the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition.

His lecture was named “Enter the Peacemakers: The Women’s Coalition and the Good Friday Negotiations in Northern Ireland,” and he spoke about how a group of Irish woman pulled the country away from conflict and closer to peace.

The lecture was part of the Peace and Conflict Studies Speakers Series being put on by Western’s Political Science department.

Taylor has always been interested in the political conflicts of Northern Ireland.

“I graduated from my undergraduate and took a trip to Ireland with a friend of mine and just became really fascinated by the history of the conflict and the fact that the conflict itself seemed so attractable,” Taylor said. “I did some research when I got my master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Administration on discrimination housing and integrated housing efforts and why they had failed.”

The conflict that Taylor is actually in reference is a series of peace talks called the Good Friday Negotiations. The Negotiations were held to decide whether a significant piece of Northern Ireland would remain part of England or if it would be considered part of Northern Ireland; these talks were part of the process that would eventually turn war-threatened Northern Ireland into the nation it is today.

However, as Taylor’s lecture explained, the talks only became effective after the involvement of an Irish women’s political party called the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC).

The NIWC found success in the peace talks because of negotiation method called “unconditional inclusion.”

“If you want to have a peace process that is durable, you need to have conflicts or efforts to resolve these conflicts that include all the stakeholders,” Taylor said.

Inclusion in the context of Northern Ireland would be having a political party for each of the groups in the country; so a party for women, for Catholics, even for the radically violent groups of Ireland. Until the NIWC, the peace process only included white, middle class protestant Irish men.

The audience gathered for the lecture was avid about the entire presentation, especially with the humor that Taylor sprinkled throughout: jokes about Beyonce, puffins and “magic bananas.”

After the lecture and slideshow presentation, Taylor accepted questions from the audience.

Questions ranged from specifics on the NIWC and Northern Ireland, to general questions of how global politics could be more inclusive of all groups.

Dr. David Tushaus, professor of Legal Studies and department chair, thought the presentation provided a new perspective on Northern Ireland.

“I thought Dr. Taylor did an excellent job of illustrating the history of the conflict and how it was not simply a war of religions, which I think is a common misunderstanding,” Tushaus said.

Another member of the audience, Kelly Cochran, enjoyed the philosophical discussion involved in the peace process.

“I got goose bumps when “unconditional inclusion” appeared on the screen,” Cohran said. “Inclusion is more than “having a seat at the table,” but also involves having voices heard and respected.”

The lecture itself had an overtone of women’s involvement in politics and, more generally, one of feminism and how the experiences of woman can be brought to the table of politics.

Taylor believes that although the NIWC is a part of history, their experiences can help societies of our generation.

“I think that it’s important that women at Missouri Western actually see that there are real opportunities for success— if you’re a woman you don’t have to only think of yourself as fit for certain roles,” Taylor said.

Even if you missed the previous forums and lectures in the Peace and Conflict Studies Speakers Series, there is still one more to be held on Thursday, March 26, from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. in Blum 218-219.

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