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Archive for June 25th, 2008

Trav – the guest blogger

My dad Trav, who you might remember from previous posts – is in Ireland.  He is at the Corrymella Community Center as a week long volunteer.  He really likes to learn about the places he visits, and he and his best friend are working at the center for a week then they are biking around for a few days before coming home.  I am going to cut and paste some of his emails.  It is amazing how little I know about Ireland. 

June 23, 2008
just met a
visiting RTE television team which has arrived here to interview the Director
and film this place.  RTE is Ireland's equivalent to the BBC in
England.  Today
I am working as the front desk receptionist at the
Corrymeela Community Centre, handling the incoming phone calls and visitors, as
well as having access to the Centre's computer.  Miserable cold and gale-wind weather conditions yesterday gave way to a bright
and sunny day todayHopefully I
will get away from this desk later today – interesting work and people from all
over the world, but its still rather camp-like with Dick Gayle and me staying in
a hostel-type room sharing bathrooms down the hall with the 6 other women in our
team. It doesn't get dark here until around 11 pm.  

 
There are currently 3 groups staying here, 2 large
groups (one from Eastern Europe and one from Northern Ireland), as well as our
small volunteer group. 
In addition to Dick and me, our Global Volunteers group
consists of 2 unmarried ladies in their 70s from California, a retired
legal secretary from Chicago now living with her husband in upper Michigan near
Canada, a retired English professor from Geo. Washington U. in D.C., 
then there is a young girl 20 from Westport, NY who attends a small college in
upstate NY (from our Saratoga trips you may remember the little town of Westport
on the west bank of Lake Champlain where the ferry lands from Burlington
VT).  Finally, our team leader is a lady,  from Dublin who
has a great knowledge of the history and tragedy of the more than 30 years of
conflict that has torn Northern Ireland
 
I think I finally
have a grasp of the situation here, and realize that very few Americans truly
understand what has occured in Ireland.  Its far more complicated that just a simple difference
in ideas between Catholics and Protestants, but the religious differences
supported fierce conflict, killings and terrorism for more than 30 years until a
treaty for finalized in 2007.  

Here is a quick condensed
history:
IRELAND – the large southern part of the island which
reached its independence from the British Crown around 1922 and is now known as
the Republic of Ireland.  Its about 85% Catholic, very opposed to control
from England, and was actually neutral in World War II like Switzerland. 
It has enjoyed an economic boom during the last 15 years and is now the home to
many former US firms due to its corporate-friendly tax structure. 
 
NORTHERN IRELAND – this small 6-county part of the
island is located at the northern end of the island known as the Ulster area,
and unlike Ireland, it is still under English control.  In the 60s this
area began a civil rights movement (similar to the black/white civil rights
movement we experienced in the US), but it wasn't racial.  The small
Protestant majority was English-protected and was always given favoritism with
jobs, housing, government representation, etc.  The large Catholic minority
was nearly 45% or more of the population, and was always discriminated
against.  Protestants had their own towns, schools and got the best jobs,
benefits, food and everything.  So this large minority of Catholics started
a paramilitary war-like offensive against the English government
control. The Protestants then set up their paramilitary groups and all
hell broke loose for more than 3 decades (the stories remind you of the KKK
after the Civil War).  Thereafter, there were bombings, murders,
sabotage of Protestant leaders and any English firms which supported the English
effort (like computer firms, aerospace firms, etc).  After the
Catholics did their damage the Protetants would retaliate, and things got really
bad – dangerous and deadly for many years with many deaths of innocent
people.  There are many names that I finally understand like
the IRA, the UDA, etc. 
 
I think there is something to be learned by anyone who
visits this place, and I wish I could make the Augusta government leaders adopt
some of the "peace and reconcilation" techniques which assisted in
finally bringing trust and forgiveness to the people
with differences in Northern Ireland.  I don't know when I will
have internet access again, but I w
ill try to keep feeding you
info.  Hope all is well and miss you both.  Take care of your Mother while I am
away.
  I love you and look forward to
getting home
 
This place is certainly more significant than I
originally thought.  When it opened in the 60s it was visited by Prince
Charles, and since that time its visitors have included the Dali Lama, Sister
Teresa and many other peace-makers. 

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