In 2017 Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, along with Fianna Fáil TD, Fiona O’Loughlin, visited remote communities in Colombia to observe the progress of the historic peace agreement.
After over 50 years of conflict, an historic peace agreement was signed in 2016 by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and more recently, a temporary ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN) was also agreed.
Ms Noone said: 'In the last few years I have become aware of the Colombia peace process and the problems that they have faced, so I was naturally very interested to find out more when I was contacted by Christian Aid Ireland.
'Ordinary Colombian people, particularly in rural areas, have had a very tough time, as a result of the decades-long conflict. I was struck by how unified the communities I met were, but also how frustrated they are with the lack of support they are getting from the state.'
Ms O'Loughlin added, 'The communities we visited, whilst living in very difficult circumstances and suffering from intimidation, are very resilient. They are very welcoming and appreciate the support of the Irish people. There is a lot of respect for Ireland and for the experiences we have undergone in relation to our own peace process.'
Both politicians had the opportunity to meet human rights defenders and indigenous groups who have been forced from their homes by the conflict. Colombia has one of the highest rates of internally displaced people in the world, with over seven million people forced from their homes and villages by the war.
The peace process has been widely welcomed by the international community, but there are still real and severe threats to its success. Human rights defenders continue to be murdered, including representatives from some of the communities visited.
'It was a real privilege to meet the indigenous people because I doubt many politicians from around the world have set foot where we did. I learned an enormous amount,' stated Ms O'Loughlin said.
Both the Senator and TD have called on the Irish Government to continue to support the peace process. It was announced in budget 2018 that the Irish government is going to open an embassy in Colombia and with Eamon Gilmore as the EU envoy to the Colombian peace process, this is an area with links and parallels to our own peace process here in Ireland.
'I hope that there will be further peace agreements with other paramilitary groups and that Colombia continues on its path towards peace,' said Ms Noone. 'It's important for Colombia to have outside influence and we have had such constructive international interest in Ireland that it's only right and proper that we give back to countries like Colombia.'
Watch videos from the trip below.