Prospects for peace remain elusive but if there is a temptation to be fatalistic about the conflict in Syria, we must remind ourselves of our own experience in Northern Ireland. When conflicts of this nature are at their nadir, there seems to be no end in sight but Northern Ireland has shown that, while peace negotiations are painstakingly difficult, it is never naïve to set our eyes toward the horizon of peace, however distant it may appear.
We have no right to not act. We have no right to not hope. We have no right to shut our doors and give up on the Syrian people.
Peace was achieved in Northern Ireland through a range of actions, but primarily because of leadership – leadership, patience and bravery to take the tough decisions when necessary. By fixating on the refugee crisis in Europe, European leaders do little to stop the conflict and people fleeing it.
It is time for Europe to take a leading role in dealing with this conflict, not simply the human fallout of it.