Summer Institute in Northern Ireland: Lessons in Community Peacebuilding

Courses and Credit - Schedule & Fees - To Apply - Faculty - Request Information

Today, Armagh City is a friendly place with beautiful, historic stone buildings, cafes and restaurants and an optimistic outlook. However, during the past four decades of conflict, Armagh county was referred to as "bandit country" and in the later phases of the Troubles (the common name for the conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century), disputes over parades between local nationalist residents and the Protestant Orange orders drew world media attention. So, how did Armagh residents get from those troubled times to the present day where the marching season passes without major incidents? Are these disputes resolved or merely managed? What methods are used? What have local community activists got to teach the rest of us about how to move a community from a fraught, conflict- riven state to one where the summer parade season is no longer faced with a sense of dread?

Program Overview

The summer institute will focus on the enormous achievements of local activists and agencies in bringing Armagh to its current state of peace, through years of community dialogue, negotiation and with the formation of new institutions and processes.

Representing a chance for participants to engage with local peacebuilders, this ten-day program aims to deliver mutual benefits for participants and locals. Students learn about the Northern Ireland conflict, get an intimate perspective of the methods and practices used to address this dispute and in dialogue with local practitioners, and critically evaluate their effectiveness in Northern Ireland and their utility in other contexts.

The program will be led by Professor Marie Breen-Smyth, a native of Northern Ireland who has written extensively about conflict in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. The Institute’s faculty contains a range of experts and practitioners from Northern Ireland and the US and is organized in partnership with a consortium of Armagh residents, brought together by Will Glendinning, former head of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland and coordinator of Diversity Challenges, a local nonprofit organization. The local consortium will organize the logistics and participate in classes and visits with the US participants.

The ten-day institute will focus on the achievements of the past and the key contemporary challenges still facing peacebuilding in Northern Ireland:  dealing with the past and provision for victims: memorials; parading; flags and paramilitaries. A background and overview of the Northern Ireland conflict will be provided for participants on campus prior to the field visit to Northern Ireland. The program will begin with a survey of all these issues, with expert speakers on each topic and then focus in more detail on two of these issues: dealing with the past and parading.

Participants will stay in en-suite accommodation in the city center and classes will be held in a range of historic venues in the city including the Armagh Public Library and the O’Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive. In addition, the program includes visits to Belfast, with a tour of the city’s peacelines and political murals, and a visit to the ancient city or Derry/Londonderry and a visit over the border to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Other trips and visits can be organized on request and advice offered for participants with particular interests.

Cultural Activities and Historical Context

Armagh City, where St. Patrick founded his main church as early as 445 AD, has been the Spiritual Capital of Ireland for 1500 years and is currently home to both the Church of Ireland and Catholic archbishops. In Pagan times, this area housed the Royal Mounds at Navan, the seat of the High Kings of Ulster. Participants in the Summer Institute will have the opportunity to explore the city of Armagh, its museums and ancient monuments as well as to sample local music and Guinness in the evenings.

Courses and Credit

Attendance at the Summer Institute will award 3 credits, CONRES 603: Advanced Negotiation/Mediation.

Participants have the option to earn 3 additional credits by registering for CONRES 696: Independent Study and completing a a written assignment of 2000 words under the direction of Professor Breen-Smyth.

Credit is granted by UMass Boston; but students (or graduates) from any university are welcome. Prior to registration, students should verify with their home institution that transfer of credit from UMass Boston will be accepted.

Schedule & Fees

July 8-18, 2017
Total program cost has three parts:

  1. tuition fee payable to UMass Boston (includes UMass Boston travel insurance)
    $500: CONRES 603/696 ($699 if there are fewer than 17 participants)
    +$650: CONRES 696 (optional)
  2. logistics fee paid directly to the host organization in Ireland, Diversity Challenges
    $2,800* (subject to change)
    The travel vendor, Diversity Challenges, will require non-refundable deposits of $250 by March 31, and an additional $250 by May 5.
  3. RT airfare that is the responsibility of the participant
    Please do not purchase airfare or make travel arrangements until you have received formal notice of acceptance into the program.

* The logistics fee will cover the accommodation, program-related local transportation, meals, and entrance fees. Participants will pay this fee directly to the travel vendor, Diversity Challenges.

To Apply

Application Deadline: St. Patrick's Day - March 17, 2017

» Download Application

Application Requirements

Participants should have an interest in peace-building and conflict resolution.


Marie Breen-Smyth
Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance University of Massachusetts Boston

Will Glendinning
Former head of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland and coordinator of Diversity Challenges

Professor Darren Kew
Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance University of Massachusetts Boston

Professor Karen Ross
Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance University of Massachusetts Boston

Invited guests may include:

Lord John Alderdice
First Speaker of Northern Ireland Assembly

Tim Mairs
Police Service of Northern Ireland; responsible for parades

Delores Kelly
Member of Local Assembly

Professor Dominic Bryan
Queens’s University

Request Information

For further academic information please contact:

Marie Breen-Smyth
Wheatley Hall, 4th Floor, Room 144
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125

For application and travel information, please contact:

Karol Victoria Guzman


Please be advised that international programs are subject to change, slight or major, at any time due to circumstances beyond our control; this includes any and all fees, dates, itinerary, and program activities. We will do our best to inform all applicants of any changes in as timely a manner as possible.