‘Deaf Stories from the Troubles’

A powerful new DVD telling the stories of the Troubles as experienced by deaf people has been launched.

“Deaf Stories of The Troubles: Storytelling & Dialogue” was created by the Towards Healing and Understanding (TUH) Project, based at the Junction, in association with Dungiven based charity, Hands That Talk, which provides a wide variety of support services and learning programs to the deaf community throughout Derry and Tyrone.

Over the past year, the two groups developed a solid working relationship, which led to the DVD involving seven people from the deaf community who bravely shared their stories and memories of growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

On Tuesday it was screened at the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in Limavady where it was described as having “broken a barrier”.

The DVD includes a variety of experiences, including stories about stops at army and police checkpoints. One participant recalls going home on the bus and being on the Craigavon Bridge in Derry when soldiers boarded the bus. On his own and sitting at the back of the bus, viewers hear how the man signed to a soldier who found his hearing aid. The soldier doesn’t believe him and the situation lasts for several minutes. He recalls how he felt responsible for holding up the bus, adding: “It was awful.””

Another participant recalls being stopped by police and questioned and the negative affect it had on her.

Viewers also hear participants’’ memories and emotions of historic incidents such as the Droppin’ Well bombing and the funeral of hunger striker Kevin Lynch from Dungiven.

Participant James McKernan was “really proud”” to be involved in the project and, “although it took a while to “draw it out of us,” the dialogue had “broken a barrier”.

“I knew all these people and I wasn’t expecting all that came out and it came from the heart,”” he conveyed to those at Tuesday’s launch. “It’s a fantastic project and it’s fantastic to be out and about. It is opportunities like that that make us feel positive about the future.”

TUH training manager Eamonn Baker said with the help of core staff at Hands That Talk, Denise McConnell-Dillon and Pauline Doherty: “We recruited a small group of deaf people who agreed to speak of their unique experience of the Troubles. The challenge was to work in respectful, ethical ways and actively support these participants to share their Troubles stories. The privilege arose from being in the room when the participants shared their stories. The success of this work develops from participants finding ways towards greater mutual understanding and healing.”

Denise McConnell-Dillon said the DVD was a major development for the deaf community which has been isolated in telling their stories of the Troubles. She said it was a proud day and encouraged people to share the experience.

Maureen Hetherington, manager at the Junction said the launch of the DVD gave space, time and an outlet for deaf people to share what their experience has been of the Troubles.

“We are both pleased and moved we had this opportunity to be involved with the deaf community and Hands That Talk,”” she added.

Limavady Mayor, Sinn Fein councilor Sean McGlinchey said he was humbled by the work groups such as Hands That Talk undertake. He praised the project for giving the deaf community the opportunity to tell their stories.

“I thank you for your work and dedication and long may it continue,”” he said.

SDLP councillor Michael Coyle said, for too long, like most people he was wrapped up in his own world and it was good to hear the deaf community express their feelings.

“”It is simple and powerful,”” he said of the DVD, adding he would be taking it to Limavady Borough Council to encourage other councilors to view.

The participants of the DVD featured Eamon and Pauline Doherty, Mandy McKay, James McKernan, Terence McCullough, Eddie McElhinney and Siobhan McKeever.

For information contact Towards Understanding and Healing at 71 267519 or email tuh@thejunction-ni-org or Denise McConnell Dillon at hands That Talk on 777 24776 or email denise@handsthattalk.co.uk

See photos on Page 15