|At Cloona House for a discussion on paths to peace and reconcilliation are
Martina Mullan 0'Hare, Alistair Little (former UVF prisoner), Sean Lennon
(former republican prisoner), John McStay (Lisburn loyalist), and Gerry McErlean
(troubles survivor) US0910-402PM
Pic by Pau Murphy
Panel tell of their Pathways to Peace'
A PANEL of people from vastly differing backgrounds have been brought together on the outskirts of Lisburn to address the legacy of the Troubles.
Cloona Oasis Centre launched the challenging new peace and reconciliation initiative - 'Pathways to Peace' - last Thursday. It is one of a series planned over 20I0 and aims to build mutual understanding and reconciliation through personal storytelling followed by questions and answers from the audience.
The panel for the evening, which was facilitated by Martina Mullen-O'Hare, comprised four men with their own contrasting stories. One testament to the impact of groundbreaking reconciliation work embarked upon by Cioona Oasis is the fact that these four men actually shared a platform and engaged in discussion.
Gerry McErlane lost two brothers who were shot dead in I975 by loyalist paramilitaries. Gerry who is now a member of the Victims Forum spoke movingly of the dreadful impact these deaths had on himself and his family and the steps he has taken in more recent years to use his experience as a positive force in peacebuilding.
Sean Lennon is a former IRA member and spent seventeen years in prison. He spoke of his own journey from active involvement in republican violence to his commitment to the peace process and his engagement in cross community and reconciliation initiatives.
John McStea from Lisburn gave an account of his younger years, specifically referencing his time spent working in Belfast shipyard and explained how the turbulent years of the earlytroubles and his lifelong membership of the Orange Order has influenced his thoughts on the conflict. He spoke of his past and current involvement in peace building initiatives.
Alistair Lyttle, who was recently portrayed by Liam Neeson in the BBC play 'Five minutes of Heaven, told a strikingly honest story of his personal journey from being jailed as a I7-year-old for the murder of a Catholic in his home town of Lurgan to his current work, particularly with the Irish Peace Centres in working in challenging areas to bring about mutual understanding and respect as a basis for building peace. A spokesperson for Cloona Oasis commented: "The panel members were asked a series of sometimes challenging open house questions from the audience which enabled further exploration of issues around addressing the legacy of the conflict and moving towards a lasting peace.
"All in all it was a quite remarkable evening characterised by searing honesty and courage on the part of the four men and represented a very constructive start to the Cloona House series of events within the 'Pathways to Peace' initiative which will continue throughout 20I0."