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Templegrove Action Research Limited:
A Public Hearing on Minority Experiences in Derry Londonderry, Part 2
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Text: Ruth Moore, Pauline Collins, Dave Duggan & Marie Smyth ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna
As an action-research project Templegrove Action Research locates
its work within the community, while utilising good academic practice
in a manner that acknowledges research as a tool for increasing
social awareness and achieving social change. In practical terms,
this means that the manner in which the research is conducted,
the methods used, the approach adopted - namely the process
- is regarded as of great importance. Traditionally, research
has focussed more on the results, - the content of what
people say - or the product. Our approach is to balance
these two, process and product.
A commitment to the dynamic of process and product informed the
way we set about organising the hearing. It seemed clear that
if we were to simply announce a public hearing in the press and
turn up on the day, that many of those whom we wished to consult
or hear from would not participate. The effects of years of marginalisation,
difficulty in accessing resources, lack of confidence, language
difficulties and many other factors could,- and do - prevent people
from participating in such events. We recognised the importance
of providing encouragement, support and back-up for individuals
and groups who wished to make a submission. We adopted the following
- engaging with the citizens of the city through the public media,
focussed mailings and personal contact;
- supporting individuals and groups who wished to participate
- seeking advice and support from relevant agencies with experience
of minority issues
- incorporating features to ensure maximum participation and accessibility,
- designing an occasion which was formal, yet welcoming; rigorous
- appointing members of a panel who had relevant experience and
knowledge in the field who could offer us attentive listening
and generous reflection.
- to record the proceedings of the day and the submissions presented
- to make the outcomes of the day available to the public through
a published report
- to seek to engage with policy makers in the city to ensure that
the outcomes of the process are considered by policy makers in
the city and beyond.
Our commitment to the individuals and groups who made submissions
was that their views would be received in public at a formal hearing
and forwarded to policy makers in the city.
We asked those submitting presentations to be concise - to produce
a two page document which expressed their current concerns and
their recommendations for policy or action.
Essential to the success of the whole process was the commitment
to openness and inclusion. This was made evident in all public
communications in which we indicated a willingness to receive
submissions in any and all forms, inviting people with special
needs for translation, or physical access for example, to make
them known to us so that we could ensure that all such needs were
met as thoroughly as possible. The advice of individuals and bodies
such as the Sensory Support Service was crucial in assisting us
to carry out this work.
The issue of who was defined as a "minority" was dealt
with by the adoption of a strategy which allowed individuals and
groups to define themselves as minorities, rather than us imposing
the definition on them. When the hearing was advertised, the wording
of the advertisement was broad, and the publicity aimed at attracting
submissions emphasised inclusiveness, so that, without exception,
those who made submissions had made a definition of themselves
as a minority. This was a relatively easy task for some individuals
and groups and more complex, even controversial for others.
A PUBLIC PLATFORM
FOR MINORITY EXPERIENCES
IN THIS CITY
Have you ever asked yourself how minorities feel about the
city? Perhaps you've always had opinions about this and would
welcome an opportunity to go public with these opinions.
Templegrove Action Research invites you to prepare and make
a formal submission.
A public hearing for minorities to express current concerns and
to make formal
recommendations to policy makers in this city is planned for the
the 21st February 1996. The aim is that the process will focus
public and civic
attention on the concerns of minorities. The submissions will
be received by a
panel of distinguished individuals with a working background in
The outcomes of the hearing will be presented to policy and decision
If you are interested in making a submission and require further
assistance, contact Dave Duggan. TEL/FAX 01504 374556. If you
translation or technical assistance on the day, contact immediately.
The hearing created an opportunity for groups in the community
to use this platform for a purposeful expression of their views
and experiences. An excerpt from a press release illustrates the
"as the next phase of their work on sectarian division
and segregation Templegrove Action Research will
hold public hearings where groups who perceive
themselves to be minority groups can make presentations.
This hearing will provide a platform for all minority
groups to present their experiences and views about living
in the city. The aim of this is to promote social inclusion
by raising awareness of the responsibilities of majorities
This open and inclusive stance presented a challenge both to the
citizens of the city and to the project itself, by locating the
work firmly in the contested area of rights and privileges situated
in our own unique historical and political circumstances. It aimed
to ensure that the work was relevant to local realities, in a
way which was not prescriptive and which potentially related to
other political tensions and debates.
Minorities in the city were invited to address the question, 'What
kind of city do we want?' In this way we hoped to encourage the
emergence of a newness in visions for the city that had not previously
Using this approach, we began to organise a hearing in the Minor
Hall of the Guildhall on Wednesday 21st February 1996. Phone,
mail and personal contact with individuals and groups who responded
to the call for submissions ultimately led to 15 submissions being
presented in advance of the day, 5 submissions being presented
on the day and 6 coming in after the event.
The choice of venue was significant for a number of reasons. the
venue chosen had to be perceived as available to everyone. It
had to have status which would add weight to the event, and it
had also to be accessible to a wide variety of people with special
needs. The Minor Hall of the Guildhall proved to be the most satisfactory
venue available. Guildhall staff were familiar with the requirements
of such an event and dealt very professionally and sensitively
with the demands we placed on them.
On the advice of the Sensory Support Service, we sought an interpreter
competent in Irish Sign Language for the deaf. Currently no one
is employed in the city in this capacity and, though staff in
the Royal National Institute for the Deaf in Belfast were very
helpful, they were unable to direct us to an interpreter. Attempts
to get an interpreter from Dublin were similarly unsuccessful.
We were fortunate, in the end, to find Gloria McGinley, a trainee
interpreter, whose work on the day was greatly appreciated by
a section of the audience.
With the assistance of the Sensory Advice Centre and Lorcan McLaughlin,
our sound technician, we installed a 'loop system', which enhances
microphone sound through a public address system. This was used
by people in the audience wearing hearing aids. We also offered
translation support to a group who wished to make their submission
The layout of the hall was designed so that the submitters were
facing the three person panel.
The public in attendance could hear presenters through a public
address system, a loop system and could read presenters through
the ISL signer. These arrangements marked the event as a hearing
rather than a debate, and ensured the primacy of the role of listening
rather than debating. This was important in order to provide an
atmosphere of safety for those who were 'going public' for the
first time. The formality of the setting and the process served
to convey value and importance on the submissions being made.
Seating was designated for the public and served by the loop system,
and separate seating was designated for observers from official
bodies. As part of the public address system a tape-recording
of the hearing was made. These were then transcribed and integrated
into the body of this report.
On the advice of the Board of Directors and Advisory Group of
Templegrove Action Research, a number of individuals were invited
to sit on the three-person panel. It was decided to invite people
from outside the city with a broad experience of issues facing
minorities. This was intended to afford a wider field of reflection
and broaden our vision beyond the confines of the city. We were
fortunate in securing the services of three individuals who brought
a wealth of diverse experience to the day, and whose participation
we have greatly appreciated.
Christine Bell, who chaired the panel, is a Lecturer in
Law at The Queen's University of Belfast. She is the Chairperson
of the Committee for the Administration of Justice, and a well
known speaker and writer on issues of human rights and women's
rights both locally and internationally.
Mary Mulholland is the Chairperson of the North East Forum
on Disability and the treasurer of Rights Now Northern Ireland.
She first got involved in the disability movement in 1990 and
was an office bearer in the Motherwell District Disability Forum
in her native Scotland, before moving to Northern Ireland in 1993.
Mary has experience of multiple sclerosis in her immediate family,
and she herself has used a wheelchair since 1992, as a result
of an osteo-arthritis diagnosis made in 1968.
Patrick Yu is an awaiting trainee solicitor, and a former
senior social worker. He has an LLB from The Queen's University
of Belfast, and a Diploma in Social Work from Hong Kong Baptist
College. Patrick is a member of the Black Perspectives Committee
of the Central Council on the Education and Training of Social
Work, UK, and founder member and Chairperson of the Northern Ireland
Council for Ethnic Minorities. He also sits on the management
committees of both the Chinese Welfare Association and the Chinese
Chamber of Commerce (Belfast). He has served as an Executive Committee
member on the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic
Diocese and worked as Executive Secretary to the Commission. He
was also Chairperson of the Social Security Sub-Committee of the
Social Security Committee of the Hong Kong Council of Social Services,
and a member of the Social Welfare White Paper Committee appointed
by the Secretary of Health and Social Welfare of the Hong Kong
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