Donna and Andy

Survivors Assistance Network (SAN): Ireland 16th-19th May 2016

June 7, 2016 | Nick Taylor

By Donna Craine and Andy Sherratt – Survivors Assistance Network (SAN) Team.

We’ve been on a whistle-stop tour of Ireland visiting both the North and the Republic in just four days! It was hard work but fun and fabulous. We met some of those who will participate in our forthcoming SAN events: Sharing Experiences and Dialogue. We caught up with valued long-term friends of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace too. With many visits to make, our schedule was tight and the days long.

Flying from Manchester, we arrived in Belfast in glorious sunshine early on Monday morning. Work began immediately. Our first meeting was with Lee Lavis, a former British soldier who served in Ireland during the troubles, and Winston Irvine of the Progressive Unionist Party. After lunch we spoke with a loyalist who had pulled survivors from the rubble of the Shankill Road bomb. Our final destination on Monday was Coiste: a non-profit making organisation that gives Irish political history walking tours around Belfast guided by Republican former political prisoners.

From Belfast we drove to Omagh to meet with the Omagh Support Group. Twenty nine men, women and children, and two unborn, were killed and more than 200 injured when a car bomb was detonated in Omagh on Saturday 15th August 1998.

Photo of the Peace Tree planted by Colin and Wendy Parry at Glencree

The Peace Tree planted by Colin and Wendy Parry at Glencree

Our association with the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation is a long standing one: Colin and Wendy Parry visited Glencree in 1996.

After Glencree we had a long drive back to Derry – Londonderry – where one of our appointments was with a former Republican boy soldier. We met with other potential future participants in SAN events, including peace and reconciliation workers who were once Republican activists. As well as meeting new people we spent time with existing contacts to keep relationships strong.

Plaque commemorating Colin and Wendy Parry's visit to Glencree in 1996

Plaque commemorating Colin and Wendy Parry’s visit to Glencree in 1996

On Thursday we visited The Corrymeela Community Reconciliation Centre, and were welcomed warmly by the volunteers and staff. We hope to hold some SAN workshops there in the future. Corrymeela  was founded in 1965 and is Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation community. The landscape framing Corrymeela is breath-taking. Before going to the airport we called Collraine to meet a man who had been in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Landscape at Corrymeela

Landscape at Corrymeela

 

Thank you to everyone who made us so welcome.

Special thanks to Fiona who invited us into her home and cooked chops for our dinner – we had a wonderful evening. We’ve made many new friends and have lots of happy memories – too many to recount here.

It was a truly memorable trip.