[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Cross-Cultural Program: Ireland and Northern Ireland 2001
Group Journal Nov 1-8

HomeJournalsLinksWebteamMapsOld Site
  Orientation Sept 4-10 MP Sept 11-17 MP Sept 18-24 MP ** Sept 25-Oct 7 MP **
  Oct 8-16 MP Oct 17-24 MP Oct 25-31 MP Nov 1-8 MP Nov 9-17 MP **
  Nov 18-Dec 4 MP (MP is the journal's "More Pictures" page, ** is a bonus page)

Thursday, November 1, 2001

We had a free day to explore Belfast today. It was a quiet city after all the festivities the night before, and the weather was cool and grey.
Post-Halloween fireworks over Belfast Lough
Fireworks over Belfast Lough
The hardy souls who made it to breakfast sang a nice "Happy Birthday" to Anne. Many of us slept late, did assignments, watched TV or read. Shopping and sightseeing was on some people's lists... an art analysis paper is due on the 9th! A few students went to Stormont to watch the Assembly meeting. Sarah Moffett, Megan Rayborn, Ryan Beachy and Derek King sat in the Gallery of the Parliament and listened as David Trimble and Mark Durkan were defeated in their quest to be elected First Minister and Deputy First Minister. This was a very important vote and the outcome was not what many in the various political parties desired. [See November 4 entry]



Friday, November 2, 2001

Duncan Morrow, our
Class time at St. Clement's (Look at Drew's new haircut!)
Class time at St. Clements
lecturer for this morning, had to cancel unexpectedly, so we were left with some free hours this morning. Some used the time to prepare for the big history exam in the afternoon, others went out in search of the elusive e-mail beast.

In the afternoon we had class together. The bulk of the time was spent taking the exam, which was on readings in the history text. Many agreed afterwards that it's a very confusing textbook, so the test was scary. Name those Irish monarchs!!



Saturday, November 3, 2001

This was another free day; we had considered a bus trip out to Newtownards, a city very near Belfast, but the overwhelming opinion was that we were tired of being on the bus, so we cancelled that journey. Reading back through these journals, it becomes obvious that the free days are rare, and we enjoyed this one.



Sunday, November 4, 2001

Attending the Martyrs' Memorial Free Presbyterian Church today was quite an experience. Most of the group chose to go there for the morning worship service, most likely out of curiosity more than anything else. The Reverend Ian Paisley is also the head of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and we had heard a few things about him.

Before the service, someone had obviously informed Reverend Paisley that a group of Americans was there because he came out to shake our hands. Some of us had never seen a picture of him before so we didn't know it was him at the time.

The service started at 11:30 a.m., but the sanctuary wasn't even half full. There were mostly older people there and we were almost the only women not wearing hats, so our group really stuck out. Reverend Paisley led the service and one of his sons, who preaches at a different church, gave the sermon. I had been wondering if politics got mixed into the worship services, and I got my answer when Reverend Paisley began talking about the most recent meeting of the Assembly two days earlier. I was shocked when he proceeded to call the Secretary of State a "little Hitler" and he was very critical of the other political parties.

The whole experience was a little hard for me to swallow. Coming from a Mennonite background, I'm not used to hearing about national politics in the middle of the service. I felt that it really took away from the service and defeated the purpose of being there, because I didn't feel very worshipful after his political speech. I'm glad I went to see what it was like, but I would not want to do it again.
--Emilie Hall

Those of us who didn't go to Martyrs' Memorial - Anne, Clay Showalter, Jon Hewes, Rok Keopangna and Tim Shoemaker - attended worship at the Belfast Cathedral, also known as St. Anne's (Church of Ireland).
Panoramic view of Belfast from St. Clement's
View of Belfast from St. Clement's
This is a beautiful, Neo-Romanesque cathedral, consecrated in 1904. A huge stone Celtic cross on the left wall dominates the outside of the building; the inside is filled with large, colorful mosaics. Lord Carson, leader of the campaign against Home Rule (1912), is buried here. The choir is made up of young boys, the smallest of whom could barely see over the hymnal rail, and men. In fact, we haven't heard women in the choir since we've been here. The United Kingdom has a strong tradition of boys' choirs, and the music in this service was beautiful.

At the beginning of the service I (Anne) noticed a man sitting in the front row who looked very familiar. He was African, the only one in the service. When the Bishop stood up to begin the service, he welcomed Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa! Quite a surprise... apparently he was in the United Kingdom for meetings and he often attends St. Anne's when he's in town.

The rest of the day was left free for people to rest and enjoy the city.



Monday, November 5, 2001

Today the students went with Anne and Gloria to visit WAVE, Widows and Widowers Against Violence Empowered. This organization is made up of counselors, some of whom are victims of the Troubles, who work with others who have suffered loss over the course of the 30-year strife in Northern Ireland. We listened to very moving stories from Protestant and Catholic alike.

Margaret told of her son Brian, a young man of 17, who was mentally handicapped. He got involved in a robbery and, although, they returned the money, was taken by the IRA because of his "anti-social behavior." Eventually she found out that he had been murdered but the body was never returned. Twenty years later, Margaret was on a visit to the White House with a group from Northern Ireland, and she spoke to one of Clinton's staff. The man assured her that he would help her get her son's body back, and she returned home. Within ten months, Gerry Adams (Sinn Feín) visited her house and told her that they would return Brian's body to her. They had received information telling where the bodies of several young men were buried, in a bog down in the Republic of Ireland, and the police were sent to dig. They drained this bog, working 15 hours a day, but found no bodies where they'd been told to dig. Finally they re-focused their efforts on another area of the bog and found two bodies. Margaret said that the first thing they dug up were Brian's shoes, looking almost like new, and she knew they'd found him. The family was called to identify the body, and on September 1, 1999, Brian returned home. There was a three-day wake, with the body kept lying in state in the house, and many people who didn’t even know Brian came to pay their respects.

Paul, who is a licensed counselor at WAVE, spoke of his aunt and cousin who were both killed in crossfire between the IRA and the British Army. His aunt was hit by an IRA bullet and his cousin was hit by a British bullet. Shortly after that his father was beaten and shot to death by the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).

Paul and his eight siblings searched for and found the body in a ditch. Paul left school and took over the family business; four years later it was firebombed twice in one week and was permanently closed. Paul began work as a city bus driver and his bus was hijacked six times. He had his arm broken, and on one trip a 200-lb. bomb was placed on his bus and he was forced to drive the bus to a police station. At this point, he says, he "hated virtually everybody". His first marriage had broken up, due to his anger and temper, but his second wife got him involved with WAVE. He decided to train as a counselor and took a job with WAVE shortly after finishing his degree. Now he counsels men who have been affected by the Troubles. Men in this society are conditioned not to show any kind of weakness, but Paul told us that he now has over 200 men that he works with on a weekly basis.

Organizations like WAVE are helping to heal the people of Northern Ireland, but there are many that are afraid or ashamed to take advantage of this counseling. Counselors will visit homes if the person wishing counseling feels he or she can't be seen entering the WAVE offices.

This visit was very powerful for us; several students remarked that, although they'd read accounts of suffering in their textbook, this really brought home to them how individual the effects of the Troubles could be. This personalized the Troubles for us in a way that nothing else had done.



Tuesday, November 6, 2001

In the North of Ireland these past four days have been four very important days in politics. On November 1, the Parliament had a key vote, the outcome of which was that David Trimble, head of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) was not re-elected First Minister. This vote was viewed as detrimental to the Northern Ireland peace process, because it would polarize the power of more radical Protestant and Catholic parties. It would also force the Assembly to hold new elections. Sinn Feín, the minority Catholic party, and the Democratic Unionist Party, the minority Protestant party, refuse to have any dialogue with each other in the Assembly. And in new elections these two parties would like gain enough votes to put them in the majority in the Assembly. With these two parties as the head of government, the peace process would seemingly grind to a halt.

The Secretary of State, John Reid, decided to allow the Independent Alliance Party and the Women's Coalition, which had not been designated as either Unionist or Nationalist, but as Other, to re-designate as Unionists and re-vote today.

Drew Roynon, Jessica Walter, Erica Passmore, and I were lucky enough to re-visit Stormont and witness the second vote and re-election of David Trimble as First Minister. During the proceedings there was a lot of bickering and arguing from the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), who felt that the re-designation of the Alliance Party was unjust. After the proceedings, at the press conference, the DUP and Sinn Feín made their feelings for each other apparent by starting a shoving match in the foyer.

I feel lucky to be able to watch history being made in Northern Ireland by watching a parliamentary government up close.
--Jason Blake

Tim Atwood
Tim Atwood (SDLP)
Today started with a lecture from Tim Atwood, a member of the Social Democratic Labor Party. The SDLP is a party that wishes to see a united Ireland and believes in achieving their goals peacefully. I myself would like to see a united Ireland as well and believe in doing that peacefully.

In the afternoon we had another lecture, this one from Duncan Morrow, a professor from the University of Ulster who teaches politics. It was a question and answer type session and he seemed to answer every question with interesting drawings. Not only that, but it took so long for him to answer each question that by the time he did, I'd already forgotten what the question was. Other people also became impatient with the long process and doodling of pictures to answer a question. (This was the last day for us to use our bus passes and we wanted to go into town.)

By the time Duncan was finished, it was nearly 4:00 p.m. and the electricity had gone out at our retreat center. This caused some people to alter their plans to go out/stay in. This place was already a little spooky with the lights on, and yesterday Tim Shoemaker and Adam Nolley were talking about how much spookier it would be if the lights went out. Well, that's exactly what happened, and keep in mind that a group of us went to the movies and saw "The Others" [a horror/suspense film] a few days before! But this power outage turned out to be a good thing. We all had a candle-lit dinner
Dinner with the lights out
A romantic candlelit dinner
and the people who decided to stay at St. Clement's for the evening made the best of the situation and found ways to have a good time. The outage had spoiled my plans to go out because I couldn't see well enough to get ready, but it did give me a good opportunity to bond with some of the group, which I personally found a really good experience.
--Rok Keopangna

A lot of us also found time to gather in the candle-lit chapel and sing together before dinner, something which we enjoy and don't get a lot of time to do. Since it was dark we went by memory, and most of our selections were Christmas carols. We finished up with a rousing rendition of #606 (118 to some of us!), which seems to be the Mennonite National Anthem. For non-Mennos reading this, it's a wonderful version of "Praise God from whom all blessings flow".

We also enjoyed finding the life-sized statue of a monk hidden at the back of the chapel behind some curtains... some of the group used up their month's share of adrenaline when others shared their discovery with no warning! YAAH!!



Wednesday, November 7, 2001

This morning was spent
Billy Hutchinson
Billy Hutchinson (PUP)
interacting with a representative from the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) Billy Hutchinson shared with us a little about his past and frankly explained his party's position on any topic about which we had questions. The first thing that struck me about Mr. Hutchinson was how honest and direct he was when talking about his past. He openly told us a little about his involvement in a paramilitary group and his time spent in prison. It really blew my mind at first to think about a former paramilitary man and prisoner being involved at the highest level of politics in Northern Ireland. The more he explained his position, however, the more I was able to understand. His party is a party for the working class. They openly confess to having dialogue with the paramilitaries. Mr., Hutchinson feels that the reason paramilitary groups became violent is because their voices are not being heard, so the way to begin putting weapons down is to talk with the paramilitaries and truly let their voices be heard in the political sphere. He felt that he was a good representative for the people because he came from a working class background with activity in a paramilitary group. Plus, he said that the impact of seeing people like him making peace with former paramilitaries from the other side (in the political arena) should be felt all across the community. He was working across the table from people he would have readily killed 20 years ago, and vice versa. The time with Mr. Hutchinson taught me a lot about the peace process and what can happen when people feel comfortable with putting their weapons down and using their ears and mouths.
--Derek King

Our speaker from Sinn Feín never showed up, so the afternoon was free for various pursuits. In the evening we had class together and discussed assignments and questions.



Thursday, November 8, 2001

This morning we were joined by Mervyn, who spent time telling us his personal background and the effect the Troubles have had on his life. It was a very powerful talk and his openness and honesty impressed us. After lunch we were scheduled to meet with Ian Paisley, Jr, a member of the DUP. Unfortunately, due to his involvement in the shoving match at Stormont a few days earlier, he was in court and was unable to meet with us. This was disappointing; however, the Sinn Fen representative, Councillor Eoin O' Broin, had re-scheduled, so he spoke with a small group of students. In the evening, several of the group went to the Odyssey Ice Rink to see a hockey game played by the Belfast Giants. This is a new team, only formed in the past few years, but they managed to win the game. The Belfast fans celebrate in the streets just like any group of American hockey fans, with car horns, cheers and songs!



Click for more pictures
More Pictures...


HomeJournalsLinksWebteamMapsOld Site
  Orientation Sept 4-10 MP Sept 11-17 MP Sept 18-24 MP ** Sept 25-Oct 7 MP **
  Oct 8-16 MP Oct 17-24 MP Oct 25-31 MP Nov 1-8 MP Nov 9-17 MP **
  Nov 18-Dec 4 MP (MP is the journal's "More Pictures" page, ** is a bonus page)