On Monday 12th October 2020, Forward Thinking, in cooperation with the House of Wisdom, convened an online negotiations training workshop with Pat Hynes. Following recent completion of a programme on ‘Responsible Negotiation’, senior officials in Gaza requested further insights into the role of mediation during negotiations. Pat was able to share his experiences of mediating during the Irish peace process and provide practical advice in response to participant questions.

Effective mediators must work with emotional intelligence to guide opposing parties throughout a negotiations process. Mediators must be able to sensitively test the ability of both sides to compromise and tease out concerns or challenges which may be limiting progress towards durable solutions.

A clearly defined process is fundamental for negotiations to be successful. While at the beginning of Irish peace talks it was not clear how negotiations would conclude, what remained was a common focus on stopping violence. Pat shared that peacemaking is a journey and that it is important to ‘frontload the destination’; as a process develops the end goal of talks will naturally evolve and become clearer. To achieve this, what is important is to build trust, deepen respect and, as far as possible, humanise relationships between different parties.

The group also took part in a simulation exercise based on cross-factional negotiations. Participants acted as mediators between different parties, identifying key issues that both sides must discuss in order to work toward durable solutions. Pat was able to observe the exercise and provide his own feedback and reflections.

Pat is a former member of the Fianna Fail National Executive and a former Vice Chairman of the party’s youth organisation during the 1990’s. Politically active for over twenty-five years, he participated in the Glencree Political Dialogue Program for over 12 years from 1994 and worked with the Irish government unofficially in the back channels of the peace process. He also participated in Glencree’s Middle East Programme between 2003-2007 which was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. For the past two years, he has worked on the legacy of the conflict issues in Glencree and is also part of the adjunct faculty at the Kennedy Institute for Conflict Resolution in Maynooth University.