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Aspects of Sectarian Division in Derry Londonderry - Concluding remarks

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Text: Ruth Moore, Marie Smyth and Pauline Collins ... Page Design: Fionnuala McKenna
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Concluding remarks

The aim of these public discussions was to provide an opportunity, in the context of the period immediately after the cease-fires, for dialogue about sectarian division to take place across the sectarian divide. whilst violence was ongoing, such dialogue was difficult to arrange and in many instances impossible. In the immediate aftermath of the cease-fires, there was a new willingness to take risks, and an eagerness to begin designing a future in which dialogue was part of normal life. The process of dialogue between those of differing experiences and views is central to this. Six months after the last public discussion organised by Templegrove Action Research, the post cease-fire dynamic and the new prospects glimpsed upon were dulling over, and nine months later, at the time of writing, the IRA cease-fire is over, and the prospects for political progress seem at best confusing and at worst remote. During the course of the public meetings, we became aware of the frustration people had about their political leaders and their anxiety to see serious engagement and debate on what they perceived to be the crucial issues. In the wake of the meetings, we are aware of ongoing debates, in public and in private, which continue on some of these topics. We hope that our meetings contributed positively towards creating and maintaining a culture of dialogue on issues of sectarian division in this city.

On a practical level, organising a series of public discussions which seek to engage with both communities presented a particular set of difficulties in a segregated city. The politics of sectarian and class division mean that public space is often contested, and territory is rarely neutral. Finding a public venue in which a range of people from different political and class backgrounds could meet was difficult. The selection of topics for discussion also called for careful thought, since certain issues can be perceived as a part of an agenda which is owned by one community or the other. In both the selection and presentation of issues, an attempt was made to engage both the Protestant/unionist community and the Catholic/nationalist community. We also attempted to be inclusive of a range of social classes, by utilising existing information networks in working class communities and by incorporating people from these communities into the facilitation of discussions at the meetings, and by facilitating discussion in ways which included voices that tend to be marginalised. A further dimension to the facilitation of the discussions was to allow and facilitate a diversity of views within communities as well as between communities.

The way in which issues such as the retreat of the Protestant community and the 'greening' of our cities, the economic reconstruction of nationalist areas, the effects of violence or the future of loyalism were discussed, within a public and open space, has demonstrated participants' resolve to engage with the issues which have divided this city and wider Northern Irish society for the past twenty five years and longer. This publication records individual positions and the level of debate and politicisation of people in communities in the North West. With the participation of elected representatives, community workers, other professionals, such as, teachers and people from the working class and unemployed sections of community, it is hoped that the awareness from the discussions will feed back into existing political networks, and we have had some evidence that this is beginning to happen. These public discussions have engaged individuals from both communities in creating a new arena of political debate in an open public and civic space, free from the constraints of party politics. This series of public discussions may have come to an end but we hope that the dialogue which started during them has not. There continues to be a need for other open and public spaces in which these public conversations may continue and from which new relationships may emerge.

The participation of people from the two historically divided communities reflects the

breadth and the depth of the conflict, the macro and the micro issues, such as the need for an overall political settlement and resolutions to local inter-community conflicts, which have a very direct impact on the lives of people in the North West. The contributions of Jackie Redpath and Gerry Doherty highlight how one community's needs impact on the 'other' community and this inter-dependence is also present in the North West. The creation of the conditions in which both communities can give voice to their situations outside of the historically drawn confines is crucial. Then real goals can be set and work begun. Healthy and honest inter-community relationships will be created from the readiness of both communities to speak the truth, to listen and to recognise differences as well as commonalities. The inter-relationship of both communities, and the beginnings of an exploration of their potential relationships to one another are in evidence in the records of these meetings in Derry Londonderry. This publication stands in part as testimony to a thirst for dialogue and progress. It is from the practice of dialogue that our ability to re-imagine and re-create ourselves will flow. We can only hope that the political space to continue such work will not disappear.

Ruth Moore
Marie SmythMarch

Appendix 1
Biographical Notes on Speakers

Brian Lacey, studied Celtic Archaeology and Early Irish History at University College Dublin and as an archaeologist and historian he has directed a series of excavations in Derry. He edited the Archaeological Survey of County Donegal (1983) and his publications include Historic Derry (1988), The Siege of Derry (1989) and Siege City - 'The Story of Derry and Londonderry' (1990). An occasional radio and television broadcaster, he currently heads Derry City Council's Museum Service.

Dr. Brendan Murtagh, studied Geography and Town Planning at The Queen's University of Belfast. He worked as a town planner on a wide range of urban regeneration, housing and rural development strategies. He joined the Northern Ireland Housing Executive as Senior Economist in 1989 and since 1993 has worked for the Housing Research Centre at the University of Ulster. His main research interests are on housing, planning and ethnic division, and in 1991 completed a major research project on Belfast Peacelines for the Central Community Relations Unit. Dr. Murtagh is currently engaged on research on rural segregation for CCRU, and on planning policy and division in Northern Ireland for the Community Relations Council and he is evaluating the European Union's Special Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland for the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Marie Smyth, is on the academic staff of the University of Ulster and is currently seconded full-time to research aspects of segregation as Project Director of Templegrove Action Research. She also teaches at Smith College, Massachusetts. She has worked in community development in Belfast in the 1970's and early 1980's and in psychotherapic work in Northern Ireland and in United States. Her other current research involvements involve her in researching the personal effects of the troubles on people in Northern Ireland.

David Holloway, studied Archaeology and was awarded a doctorate in Social Anthropology by The Queen's University of Belfast in 1993. He has worked as an archaeologist throughout the province and as a History Development Officer, initiating local history and other development programmes in working class communities in South Belfast. He has conducted research in the working class communities of Belfast on issues of culture, identity and conflict, and on the nature of loyalism in Northern Ireland. He has written several pieces on Northern Irish cultural identity. He is currently employed as a Community Relations Officer for Projects Portadown Limited, working on a series of community and cross community development initiatives in the Portadown area.

Jackie Redpath, has been Director of the Greater Shankill Development Agency since 1989. He is presently seconded to the greater Shankill Partnership Company Limited. He has led a team which developed a Regeneration Strategy for the Greater Shankill Area, leading to the establishment of Belfast's first local partnership. A graduate of The Queen's University of Belfast, he has been a community worker in the Shankill area for over 20 years. He worked during the 1970's for the Shankill Community Council, the Shankill Education Workshop and co-ordinated the Save the Shankill Campaign. In 1980 he published and edited the Shankill Bulletin, a local community newspaper. Jackie has been involved in a wide range of local initiatives over the years including the establishment of local housing associations and youth workshops. He was also a founder member of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations, Shelter (Northern Ireland) and the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust.

Gerry Doherty, studied Sociology at Leeds University and attained a Certificate of Qualification in Social Work from The University of Ulster, Magee College and a Diploma in Marketing from The University of Ulster at Jordanstown. He has been involved in community development for the past nine years, six of which have been spent working in the Lenadoon area of West Belfast. He was prominent in setting up - and now works for - the Lenadoon Community Forum, an umbrella body of twenty locally based community groups which have developed a strategic framework for the regeneration of Lenadoon, a disadvantaged area. He is currently actively involved with two key co-ordinating bodies which operate in West Belfast, - Clar Nua which has developed a Policy Framework for Reconstruction, and the West Belfast Economic Forum.

Andrew Hamilton, graduated from the New University of Ulster and has been employed as a Lecturer in Social Administration and Policy at the University of Ulster since 1985. His main teaching interests are in European Social Policy and Community Conflict. His main research interest is in the Northern Ireland conflict. He has directed two major research projects which have lead to the following publications; Violence and Communities: The Impact of Political Violence on Inter-Community, Inter-Community and Community-State Relationships (1990) with C. McCartney, T. Anderson and A. Finn; Policing a Divided Society: Issues and Perceptions in Northern Ireland (1995) with L. Moore and T. Trimble.

Appendix 2

Budget for series of public discussions
Speakers Fees425.00
B & B/Travel80.35
Video Production50.00

Back Cover:

"Is this the only city in the world where you make a political statement by giving your address?... It (Londonderry) always sound so awkward and unwieldy. I've never heard it trip lightly off anyone's tongue... like saying 'The baby's in the perambulator,' or the football spectator shouting,' Have you ever considered a visit to the optician, referee?'... Maybe we should re-name the city by its current description - we could call it 'Smallish-city-with-lots-of-shopping-centres-and-new-roundabouts,' or we could call it, 'I-can't-believe-it's-not-Belfast!' " - Anne Doherty

"I have no problem with this (name) change at all. It was lawfully done and, I am certain, met with the approval of the local community, but no thought was given to the minority Protestant and unionist population of the Londonderry area as to what their views might be."- William Houston

"The term "Londonderry"... is a combination of the British and the Irish, of the Unionist and the Nationalist. LONDON and DERRY seemed to the Unionists to be the ideal and practical way to deal with a conflict of identity regarding a name..." - Gregory Campbell

"'Territory' is how communities work and how communities are maintained and protected. There are positive and negative aspects of segregation. the positive aspects are that it maintains communities, maintaining identity and safety of communities. The negative aspects of segregation are the compounded deprivations and stigma." - Brendan Murtagh

"How do you describe what happens when an old woman is lifted out of the root? It's not very dramatic, stuff that ye don't notice till it's too late. No more wee danders down the town for messages, no more wee cups of tea in Austin's, no more bingo with her mates at the Services Club or Saint Columb's Hall. TV., daytime soaps, keep the house clean. Life is something that happens to ye. She's dead this last eight years now." - Monologue by Robert Herdman and read by James King

"Imagine Free Derry Wall reading, 'Come Back Protestants!'" - public participant

"What they didn't tell us, though, was that instead of lookin' on or bashin' them, we could simply have joined them. A campaign for civil rights with a million Prods joining the bandwagon isn't going to turn into a campaign for Irish unification, you can't coerce a million Prods in that context." - A loyalist, cited by David Holloway

There are differences between the nationalist community in Belfast and Derry. firstly, Belfast has experienced about 60% of the troubles, of sectarian assassinations, and overall, Derry has been a safer place to live." - public participant

"People do not know how to live with peace. They are suspicious of peace, people are looking for the catches. But there is a big desire for it now, as people get more used to it." - public participant

ISBN 1 900071004
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