Last spring semester I took part in the 1.5 credit program course Conflict and Peace in Northern Ireland. This program course during the spring prepared the class for a short-term study abroad program known as Bucknell in Northern Ireland (BUNI). The program is a collaboration of Bucknell, International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), and the University of Ulster-Magee College. This service-learning program focuses on the histories and cultures of people in Northern Ireland. From mid-May to early June, we stayed in Derry/Londonderry. We briefly visited the Republic of Ireland as well. Despite the constant overcast and rain showers, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! (my pictures don’t even do it justice)
Please note that Northern Ireland is part of the UK. It is not united with the rest of Ireland (the Republic) which is independent of British rule. As you may know, society in Northern Ireland is recovering from a period of sectarian conflict. The worst part of this conflict is referred to as “The Troubles” (late 1960s-1990s). This conflict between Catholics (Nationalists/Republicans) and Protestants (Unionists/Loyalists) was the spark of much violence in Northern Ireland during their history. When we, as Americans, think of these time periods, we see them as so long ago. To society in Northern Ireland, their history is still very much alive, like it was only yesterday.
Northern Ireland’s climate is now one of healing and reconciliation. Those of us in the program were paired up and engaged in service-learning placements twice a week in organizations twice a week. The non-profit organization I volunteered for was a cross-community peace-building center – Holywell Trust. This organization is comprised of many partnerships and affiliations devoted to the ongoing process of peace building in the post-conflict atmosphere. What they do is truly amazing! During the spring course prior to the trip, we had to read Seamus Deane’s book Reading in the Dark, a touching story of the inequality prevalent in Northern Ireland seen through a Catholic boy’s eyes. This book is beyond touching to read and to my serendipitous discovery, Eamonn Deanne, who is Director of Hoywell Trust, is his brother! My partner and I had the great opportunity of looking through old family photo albums and Eamonn’s comments and recollections of what we had read.
I looked at a The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace – a think tank available from Columbia Library. What I found about Northern Ireland is much of the housing and neighborhoods are still segregated. There have been programs to help try to integrate: “Britain set out to step up contacts between Catholics and Protestants, who often lived in near-apartheid separation, to foster tolerance and cultural pluralism. It also clearly announced its policies of nurturing equal opportunity for all Northern Ireland’s citizens.” This same attitude of integration cascaded into schools as well.
The think tank seems credible. In digging a little more, Hoover Institution is a public think tank serving as a tool at Stanford University. It’s dedicated to research in domestic policy and international affairs. When searching Northern Ireland, I did get roughly 80 results, though they were a bit outdated. Many discussed the Troubles which was relevant to my studies during the BUNI program. The information is dense and very informative, but the Hoover Institution is known to be conservative.