OPINION: Bloody Sunday 50 years: Derry’s leadership is an international concept

Maeve McLaughlin, Project Manager with the Bloody Sunday Trust and the Derry Model Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding Project, on how Derry’s resilience, resistance towards injustice and groundbreaking work to reach accommodation is reverberating here and internationally.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 10:51 am
Maeve McLaughlin, Project Manager Bloody Sunday Trust, Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding Project.

Whilst our place still suffers harshly from the effects of partition, the conflict and its resulting impact of economic and social inequalities there is a spirit of resilience, leadership and risk taking that we have in spades.

I have always believed this and my work managing the Conflict Transformation project on behalf of the Bloody Sunday Trust has validated and reinforced this.

Since 2019, I have engaged with 400 individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives. This work involves family groups struggling with the contested issue of legacy, groups dealing with contested parading issues. Former British Soldier, Loyalist flute bands, Former Loyalist and Republican combatants and many Women’s groups struggling with peacebuilding and the regeneration of their communities.

Following the two-day module in Derry, all the participants leave with a sense that Derry has delivered outcomes, agreements and accommodations where others still struggle.

It’s not to say that it’s all perfect or that we have a blueprint that can simply be translated everywhere in post conflict situations but we do have sets of experiences, lessons and learnings around risk taking and showing leadership that can translate.

The Bloody Sunday Trust are currently providing for diverse voices to discuss the impact of partition – again leadership in abundance.

As we plan for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in 2022 the media focus will once again be on our wee place. Much will be debated in terms of the legacy of January 1972.

Our legacy has been our role in conflict transformation. Our peoples resilience to resist injustice, to campaign for generations for public inquiry and the impact of the Public apology from David Cameron, the agreements on parading between the Apprentice Boys and the Bogside residents group and the steely determination to protect and enhance these accommodations in the interests of all of our citizens.

Whilst the International stage affected our thinking during development of the civil rights movement, we are now the focus of that international attention as to how we have been able to solve these difficult and contested issues.

This is evidence through our partnerships with Hush House in Detroit, Eist in New York, and Forum for cities in transition in Boston and the Warrington Peace Centre. This year we explored the concept of from Bloody Sunday to Black Lives Matter whilst the slogan appeared ‘You are Now Entering Free Capitol Hill’.

It is important that the 50th anniversary allows us to harness that leadership and allow our people and our story to act as a blueprint for others to explore and apply in their own sets of circumstances.

It truly is One World One Struggle.

WHAT THEY SAID ... Direct feedback from participants on the BST Conflict Transformation & Peacebuilding Project ( SEUPB Peace IV)

On Parading:

‘I would feel encouraged to push for more open dialogue... and make people aware that it is happening”

“Dialogue is the key to reaching accommodation even if agreement cannot be reached”

“Excellent opportunity for people to see another perspective other that their own”

“It was inspiring”

“Very interesting to have an insight to what happened elsewhere”

On Dialogue:

‘Need more dialogue like this past two days. More info about what help is available. More talk between the groups like Galliagh and Belfast Woman’

‘I feel this has been a very informative and rewarding module. I think this would also be excellent to use with youth groups as well as giving them the information of what happened here years ago’

‘The learning from the two days has been enlightening and really inspiring’

‘To ensure more meetings take place and a better understanding of each other’s concerns are found’ _ Orange Order Participant

‘ My daily life and that of my family members has improved 100% because of local resolution , so important to keep going … talking and dialogue only way forward… how much hurt imposed on people on both CNR and PUL community over the years and could have been reduced if talking happened earlier’ - Cara Residents group

On Legacy and justice:

‘The respectful, open and honest dialogue The Bloody Sunday Trust facilitates generates understanding and empathy, which undermines often inaccurate stereotypes. I consider this crucial for the process of reconciliation and maintenance of continued Peace’ - Former British Soldier

‘Being a former “Para”, I was very nervous about talking about my time in Northern Ireland, serving with the Parachute Regiment. I was glad that I was open, although the impact on me when I returned home to England was huge, bringing back lots of memories of when I was a serving soldier in N.I.’

‘An excellent module really well run and also a lot of time and energy and work has gone into it. A lot of other problem areas could really take a lot from this module’

‘The module is incredible. Long may it continue for to promote peace, here and around the world’

‘Forgiveness is the key to recovery. Acceptance of rights and wrongs on both sides has to be part of it’

‘I am hugely impressed at the successful efforts to bridge the divisions between the communities’

‘There still appears so much to do to acknowledge and resolve the very real injustices felt by families of innocent victims of conflict’

‘The evidence is plain to see – Derry is a vibrant, cultural centre which is a positive demonstration of the impact of the Derry Model’

‘Human rights and legacy organisations are vital conduits through which those without power can be given a voice and facilitators of interactions between individuals and groups regardless of their background and or affiliations’

‘The respectful, open and honest dialogue The Bloody Sunday Trust facilitates generates understanding and empathy, which undermines often inaccurate stereotypes. I consider this crucial for the process of reconciliation and maintenance of continued Peace’

‘Successful resolution of legacy issues brings comfort and acknowledgement to those impacted by violence, encourages the development of relationships where none previously existed and allows for an understanding of the past, which has a bearing on our actions in the future’

‘Very sad the things that have happened especially Bloody Sunday... my heart broke... Loved doing this programme. Can’t wait for the next one. We were treated so well and learning a lot along the way... I have been to Londonderry before but this trip hit hard especially about Bloody Sunday when the truth was told in black and white - PUL Participant

‘This Study Visit will hopefully bring something back to my community and put it into action… in one-word respect’ Republican Participant

‘It has helped me understand more about how Londonderry has come on and hopefully this can help us in our own community and maybe get some help from the people of Londonderry/ Derry’ - PUL Participant

‘It has help me understand more about how Derry/Londonderry has come on and hopefully this can help us in our own community’

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