A programme aimed at reconciling communities and reconnecting those individuals hit hard by the legacy of the conflict is being launched on Wednesday May 15.
The ‘Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future’ project is being managed by the North Belfast charity Ashton Community Trust via its Bridge of Hope programme and will run until the winter of 2014. It is financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the EU’s PEACE III Programme for Peace and Reconciliation managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
The ‘Exploring the Past Together for a Better Future’ project consists of a number of different conflict themed strands and is aimed at helping communities address some of the complex issues arising from the conflict.
The project hopes to reconnect individuals from communities which experienced a significant proportion of conflict related deaths, injury, trauma and violence. Areas such as North Belfast, West Belfast, Derry, North Down, and East Antrim are all being targeted.
The project is seeking to break down the barriers which have developed historically across communities. It is hoping to dispel myths and allow relationships to be built which will benefit not only the individuals concerned but also their wider social support network. The project will also create further opportunities for significant community dialogue as a way of beginning to explore past hurt and trauma.
It is intended to work with participants either on an individual basis through the “Who Am I?” or at a community/group level through the “Making Sense of the Past in the Present” programmes. The processes culminate with a learning experience to Berlin in order to compare and contrast issues associated with division and unification.
Overall, the project is set to engage with both nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist areas especially where there is a legacy of difference in relation to attitudes and perceptions surrounding the conflict.
“Despite these historical strands of perceived difference, in the history of our work we have identified there are in fact substantial commonalities affecting these same areas. These everyday common themes focus on social, economic, housing, dereliction, lack of inward government investment, employment and poor health,” Head of Victims Services at Ashton Community Trust Irene Sherry said.
“Taking part in this initiative will offer individuals the chance to address the past in a substantial way and we feel will be welcomed especially by communities who are showing signs of wanting to move forward. This work will also have a positive influence on society at large, and will contribute to ongoing processes aimed at ensuring the past is not repeated.”
Bridge of Hope is actively engaged in researching the conflict from a community perspective so that it can better advocate for services that meet their needs at a strategic level. Over recent years substantial pieces of research, cross community confidence building and dialogue sessions have been channelled through its offices, which, with the help of participants, has undoubtedly helped steer wider society onto a path of greater awareness, reconciliation and healing.
Bridge of Hope’s Transitional Justice Grassroots Programme, the first to look at the issue of transitional justice from a bottom up perspective, has involved individuals from Falls, Shankill, Mount Vernon, Tigers Bay and Greater New Lodge. It has resulted in an academic report written by University of Ulster academic Eilish Rooney and framework toolkit that other communities dealing with transition issues can apply in the local place.
Notes to Editors:
- The launch is taking place in McSweeney Centre, a venue of Ashton Community Trust, located in Henry Place, BT15 2BB at 10.30 am.
- For further information about the Exploring the Past Together For A Better Future project contact: Michael Goodman, Legacy Coordinator on Tel: 028 9031 3454 or mobile: 07703255234
- The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU structural funds Programmes PEACE III and INTERREG IV designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland.
- Part of the European Regional Development Fund’s PEACE III Programme, specifically priority 1.2 which deals with acknowledging and dealing with the past is implemented by the Consortium of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and Pobal. Working together these organisations will be able to ensure a wide-range of expertise and experience is brought to bear in addressing these sensitivities and emotive issues.
- For more information on the SEUPB please visit www.seupb.eu