Death of Brendan McAllister
We very much regret to record the death of Brendan McAllister on 13th December 2022 and send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Elizabeth, children and grandchildren, and all his family and friends. He was a long time peace and reconciliation activist in Northern Ireland, including with Corrymeela, and the following piece records various aspects of his work.
The following tribute is written by Geoffrey Corry –
Brendan grew up in Newry and got his degree in history and politics at Queens University, Belfast. He started his professional career as a Probation Officer including 2 years in Maghaberry Prison. But he always had a deeper understanding of peace and reconciliation as a committed member of the Corrymeela Community for most of his life. He received his early mediation training from Barry Hart and John Paul Lederach, members of the peace Mennonites in North America, each of whom spent time in Belfast to share their skills to strengthen the peace movement.
The big breakthrough for him came in 1992 when he became the first Director of the Mediation Network (later to be known as Mediation Northern Ireland) and for 16 years led that organisation’s contribution to building mediation capacity within the context of the Northern Ireland Troubles. He wanted it to be an indigenous movement at street and community level, particularly across the peace lines, while using culturally sensitive and contextually nuanced mediation models. His great ability to listen and to network within circles of civic leadership meant that he was accepted among political leaders and worked with paramilitaries both inside and outside of the prisons.
Together with his mediation colleague, Joe Campbell, they became involved in mediating the Drumcree Parades dispute at the local level in 1996-9 but came up against an unwillingness by the two main parties to compromise. This experience led him to be appointed as Mediation Advisor to the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland helping them to design a scheme for the management and resolution of parade disputes including the training of a team of mediators. In 2003, Brendan became a Neighbourhood Renewal Advisor for England, working on racial tension, gang violence and social cohesion.
On the establishment of the PSNI, Brendan was instrumental in supporting police reform and getting culturally sensitive training off the ground for the new community police officers. One of his last projects with MNI was to host the European Conflict Prevention Conference in Belfast on the 10th anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in 2008.
Between 2008 and 2012, Brendan was appointed a Victims Commissioner, working with families and groups representing those with enduring trauma and distress. During his term of office, he was a principal advisor to the Government concerning the needs of victims and survivors of the Northern Ireland conflict.He then moved to the international peace mediation field, first with the EU and ultimately as a member of the United Nations Standby Team of Senior Mediation Advisors. His last job until retirement in 2020 was as the Government appointed Advocate for Victims of Historical Institutional Abuse.
On Sunday 30th January 2022 started a new chapter in his life – on his retirement. After four years of formation, Rev Brendan McAllister was ordained in Armagh Cathedral as a deacon for the Diocese of Dromore.