Attendees at a reception in the House of Lords heard how an ambitious oral history project hopes to capture the recollections of those involved in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
The €1.1m project, Peace Process: Layers of Meaning, is led by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, in association with Trinity College Dublin and Dundalk Institute of Technology.
It will record contributions from key political figures and civil servants, as well as those in community and religious life who were involved in attempts to achieve peace over the last 40 years.
The House of Lords event was hosted by Baroness Blood on behalf of the Peace Process project, a three-year initiative funded by the European Union’s PEACE III Programme.
The reception brought together more than 50 representatives of the London-Irish community, past and present MPs and Peers, diplomats, academics, journalists and key figures in sport, the arts, and religious life.
Many of those who attended played an important role in the peace process, and shared their thoughts on the reach and scope of the project.
Project Director Seán McConville, Professor of Law and Public Policy at QM said:
“It is important to recognise that there is more than one version of history. Today we gather in the House of Lords but this project involves people across every strata of society. This is urgent and important work because many of these witnesses are old and frail. It would be a major loss to our heritage if their voices were not to be heard.”
Martin Collins, from the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on the Irish in Britain, commented: “I think the development of oral history is an absolutely essential part of the on-going process of reconciliation. I think that what can be learned through people’s contributions, from all walks of life, gives a fuller picture of the experience of Northern Ireland, and indeed the experience of Irish people living in Britain living through that period.”
The former speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Lord Alderdice, commented: “I am very strongly supportive of the idea of capturing these memories while people are still around - not just how people lived through the trauma of the Troubles, but also what made a peace process possible. There are many people throughout the world who can tell us how they managed to live through conflict, but there are very few places that have the same experience of finding their way to a resolution through a peace process. That is the value of a project like this.”
The Project is also in the process of delivering oral history training to a diverse range of community and youth leaders, archivists, local historians, teachers and students in the border area. This programme is designed to train and equip local people to collect their own stories of conflict and peace, in a manner that is ethically and legally sound. Three pilot projects will shortly be developed. The research team will ensure that this work is conducted on a cross-community basis. Full details are available at: http://www.peaceprocesshistory.org
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