My time working for peace in Ireland.

Essay by Keir October 2005

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The British and Irish governments had set up a 'Victim's Commission' to 'listen' to victims of 'the Troubles'. My organisation provided the setting for an important meeting between the victims of the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings. The British had designated a knight of the Realm to listen and make a report, much like most reports that are commissioned with great fanfare and at great expense and forgotten a week after publication. I was working in a former British army base built in 1798 during the rebellion in Co. Wicklow. Half of it was so dilapidated after decades of disuse that everyone was accommodated in the great hall which was located at the end of a corridor of rooms for visiting guests and groups staying over an extended period of time. I was not involved in this matter; my brief was to work with a group of loyalist youths from East Belfast in danger of becoming recruits to one of the many paramilitary organisations around.

Most of my time in Ireland was in this line, and as a result I successfully shed my North American accent for one that sounded like a cross between Father Ted and one of the Beatles from the cartoon series. I had to liase with the group's 'leaders' who consisted of one of the kids' mother, a happy-go-lucky Orangeman and another known as 'Geordie'. Maybe it was Jordy, I don't know, but with his thick accent I thought the former was more suitable. The director of the Centre gave me one order: Keep the two groups separate. How the hell was I supposed to do this? I had a dozen skin-headed delinquents under my charge, most of whom were granted release from juvenile detention for this visit after stealing cars and setting them alight in...