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The Peacemaker

by Louise Adams
Friday Feb 9, 2018
'The Peacemaker'
'The Peacemaker'  

James Demo's heart wrenching documentary "The Peacemaker" follows a now-endangered species: The dedicated, educated, selfless diplomat.

He captures the elusive Irish peace negotiator Padraig (pronounced Pour-ig) O'Malley on film during five years of his ongoing global trips to Iraq, Kosovo, South Africa, Nigeria, and his occasional home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to broker negotiations between historically hostile parties.

O'Malley adopted the Alcoholics Anonymous techniques he learned from his own quest for sobriety, that somebody in your situation is best equipped to offer advice and solutions for what ails you. At great personal cost, he's dedicated his life to "bringing together divided societies attempting to move away from violent conflict," introducing "outside cultures that have suffered from similar conflict to share their stories."

The man who now lives out of suitcases bought the ground zero of his alcoholism, The Plough and Stars pub, to fund his work, at first using drink to bring his fellow Irishman to the negotiation table during The Troubles. A year after O'Malley's intervention the Good Friday agreement was signed.

But the Harvard Fulbright scholar began drinking around the clock and eventually knew he had to address the issue after bringing danger home to his girlfriend and their adopted daughter Gladwin.

Diplomacy then became his addiction - "a Horror Conflict Anonymous support group," a friend terms it, and "an escape from utter despair," he calls it - and regularly hosts foreign policy forums for cities in transition because "divided societies are in the best position to help other divided societies."

O'Malley knows he needs this innovative, effective work, because, as his pub co-owner notes, "without the conflict, there is no resolution and he has nothing to do." But, she ruefully adds, "this job is never going to be finished."

His health is failing. He's going deaf, and his memory loss is affecting his book writing ability. He doesn't believe in AA's higher power, its steps, or having a sponsor (although he sponsors others). But he is devout about his investigation of violence and the dark side of human behavior, which also produced 2008's historic Helsinki Agreement to reconcile Iraqi factions, co-moderated by knowledgeable Northern Irish and South African leaders.

He eschews the spotlight, partially ashamed that "half of my life was spent in alcoholic blackouts," knowing that "backroom players never get acknowledged."

As he grapples with his chosen solitude and his remarkable success in this poignant piece of peace, he says he's not looking for meaning, yet still wonders, "Why am I here?"

Demo provides a thorough, timely, expressive answer.

Louise Adams is a writer, actor, educator, yogini and nom de guerre. @MzzzAnthrope


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