Peace Trails in Ireland [November 2017]
The first issue of a short newsletter about peace trails in Ireland is available as a PDF here.
This paper is about the concept behind such a trail, the approach which has been adopted and where work is at currently. This paper comes from INNATE who first proposed the idea in 2009; it is INNATE’s understanding and may not exactly match Peace Trail partners’ views.
Producing ‘the trail’ itself requires considerable work, and realising it is likely to take some years.
This work is being done on a cooperative basis between different organisations in the field although it is anticipated that only a few organisations might be involved in the central work on developing the project. Others would be involved locally as projects listed in the trail, or as ‘Living Links’ providing possible input for visitors as part of the Trail in their area). A draft of a short peace trail for Co Mayo was produced by Afri in 2012-13 and is available at http://tinyurl.com/zqtzv67
Partners: Afri is involved in this project as part of their work on a ‘Culture of Peace’; St Columb’s Park House in Derry will work on the Derry trail; Corrymeela is a partner. INNATE is involved as originators of the trail, assisting the development of the project and coordinating it. Input from other organisations and individuals is very welcome, in various ways and anywhere in Ireland, e.g. with suggestions for inclusion and offers of help.
Contact: You can contact INNATE at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the partners – Afri at email@example.com , St Columb’s Park House (Helen Henderson) firstname.lastname@example.org , and Corrymeela (Sean Pettis) email@example.com
This proposal is to develop an ‘Irish Peace Trail’ which would cover the island of Ireland. Obviously, when up and running, participation in the trail could vary from a very few people who determinedly did it all through to people who – most likely – picked up on one or two parts of the trail when they happened to be in the appropriate part of the country. It would be aimed at both locals and visitors; there will be much, hopefully, for locals to learn. Culturally and politically it would ‘up’ the profile of peace, justice, humanitarian developments, protection of human rights, sustainability and inclusion in relation to Ireland – both the Republic and Northern Ireland. Equally, it would give a touristic focus to people who are of that frame or mind or willing to look at such a trail, and draw people to spend more time engaging with Irish culture, politics and history.
It is in no way the intention of the Peace Trail to deny the role that violence has played in Irish history and politics. That would be entirely futile. However it is the purpose of the Trail to say that there is, and always has been, another side to Irish history, life and politics; people who lived peacefully and people who resisted injustice nonviolently and/or worked for peace and progress without resorting to violence.
The trail would be ‘political’ with a small ‘p’ because it would be impossible not to be. It should be noted that tourism in Northern Ireland is already ‘political’ to a considerable extent (e.g. Belfast murals and the ‘peace walls’) but this is considered quite acceptable to locals, visitors and authorities. The peace trail would cover a broad spectrum and would not take party political stands but it would provide a unique insight which is not adequately covered at present in relation to either Northern Ireland or the Republic. A considerable amount of Northern Ireland tourism is ‘Troubles’ tourism rather than ‘Peace’ tourism and this project would partly redress this balance.
One source for the trail is the Nonviolence in Ireland quiz (which is on the INNATE website at www.innatenonviolence.org) and the “Nonviolence in Irish History” pamphlet produced by Dawn in 1978 (see www.innatenonviolence.org) but is being substantially developed beyond the very basic information in these. INNATE would certainly wish to see a semi-standard presentation of different local trails, be that by the style adopted in a phone app, website, and/or printed information. While information about the stage of development of the trail will appear on the INNATE website, it may be quite some time before ‘finished’ trails emerge.
Where possible the general trail information would contain sufficient information, including visuals as appropriate, about each trail (including getting there by foot, bicycle, bus, train and car) to give people a clear understanding of what is involved, and whether they might be interested in visiting. However what format local trail information would take has still to be decided; the level of information, and changes that may take place, probably suggest that such detailed information would be available electronically (app and/or website) with any printed information being more general.
The examples to be included will be found through:
- Looking for local examples ourselves, e.g. the Dunnes Stores in Dublin where striking workers refused to handle apartheid-era South African goods, or, in Derry, the informal agreement between Bogside residents and the Apprentice Boys about parading.
- Asking contacts around the country for suitable examples, and working on those.
- Public appeals for information.
- Engaging in political and historical research as to what to include and how to include it, taking into account what already exists ‘on the ground’ at the moment and what would need to be developed. For example, a feature on Cain Adamnan / Adamnan’s Law (‘The Law of the Innocents’), from the year 697 CE would need development in the town of Birr for it to be promoted, or 18th century Belfast opposition to the slave trade in the same way. This would require the involvement of historians and local historians, and the creation and development of visual material as the focus for the item in the Trail since there may be little or nothing that is a present day physical presence for a particular Trail feature.
We are talking about a number of years to completion and even then it should be considered as an ongoing project with always having the possibility of new items being added, and new information or features about existing items.
There are different levels at which the trail could operate, in varying levels of visibility, cost, and control by the involved, cooperating, partner groups. It has been deliberately decided to proceed in a local and incremental manner which may mean that, as the project develops, some issues will need to be ironed out as the trail for the whole of the island starts to take shape. The extent to which the project is done in cooperation with tourism authorities remains to be decided but it is clear that the Peace Trail is primarily the product of the organisations involved. However cooperation may be possible in a number of ways which can be explored later, and it is hoped and presumed that local tourist bodies will wish to promote the trails.
In terms of ‘added value’ to the whole experience, the available information could link to various organisations which are willing to run programmes for visiting groups, as well as giving information about a wider variety of groups in the peace, community, human rights and justice spheres. These would be ‘Living Links’. This would be done, and understood to be done, on a modest profit basis by local organisations as a contribution towards their work, i.e. there would be a monetary charge (which could be waived by providers if they felt it justified to do so). They could set their own limitations and parameters for cooperation, and would set out their stall (what they can offer) and potential visitors would deal directly with them if they wanted. ‘Living Link’ possibilities would need to be available in general information about a trail so any interaction could be planned.
Especially in relation to cities, there may be peace trail ‘branches’, e.g. the Ormeau Road in Belfast, as well as a ‘central trail’. Participants could choose which branch or branches they wanted to follow as it is envisaged that ‘doing them all’ in a city like Belfast might require more time than available to anyone except the most dedicated of peace trail followers.
Ongoing development and modification would be needed when the Trail is up and running so responsibility for this would need to be allocated.
Origins of the idea
It is fitting that the first part of the trail to be put together, by Afri, was Co Mayo, since Co Mayo also led to the genesis of the idea. The Mayo Peace Park and Garden of Remembrance in Castlebar, opened in 2008, is actually an extended war memorial park (different war memorials in a garden setting) and INNATE felt that there had to be a better way to use the term ‘peace’ since that memorial is actually much more about ‘war’ rather than ‘peace’, albeit inclusively in remembering all those from the county who died on any side in wars. INNATE felt that anything using the term ‘peace’ should actually be examining alternatives to war and violence.
Features of the trail
The trail would be set out geographically but it could also be grouped or coded thematically (e.g. Northern Ireland/Troubles, international peace issues and global justice, peace and justice in Ireland, sustainability, ‘older’ history etc). As noted above there could also be ‘central’ and ‘branch’ parts of a trail, especially in cities where this could be justified.
Each individual item could eventually include:
- The name of the feature and its nature (international peace/justice/Troubles and sectarianism/sustainability etc)
- Geographical location or features
- Photos or illustrations as appropriate
- The history and relevance of the item
- Opening or accessibility times if appropriate (where access to a building or location is limited)
- If a ‘Living Link’, what is offered and who to contact
- What further information is available and where, e.g. web and printed material
Each local trail would also include
- Instructions for getting to that particular local trail by different means of transport
- Limited links to other tourist features in the area (while this is not necessarily to do with ‘peace’ it may encourage visitors to come to an item on the Peace Trail, and some features which are nothing to do with peace are impossible to ignore).
Other more general backing information on Irish history and culture could also be provided, or links to same. This could include a bibliography and web references.
Some of this information would require periodic updating especially where items 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 above are concerned.
We can also learn from peace trails elsewhere, both in the kind of features included and in presentation, e.g. peace trails in London, Manchester, Vienna etc.
The trail would attempt to represent as fully as possible the contribution of women and all sections of the population. Due to the under-representation of women in conventional history, every effort will be made to include women’s contributions and experience in the Peace Trail. Examples involving women are especially welcome.
The outline of the trail
As already stated, this would need considerable research and development but here are some initial suggestions for the trail. As well as the bigger, national examples, we would add various ‘local’ examples which we would gather through both community and local history contacts. Some Quaker peace actions or activities could be included, and it might be possible to include the Corrymeela Centre, Co Antrim, and Glencree Centre, Co Wicklow as part of the trail, as well as smaller centres and organisations. We could actively seek out suitable examples for parts of the country not currently included and highlight more of women’s contribution which is not adequately represented in this list, as well as spelling this out within individual examples. This list would be continually modified and developed as the project progresses.
Corrymeela Centre, Ballycastle – only peace and reconciliation group to pre-date the Troubles.
Gracehill (near Ballymena) – Moravian settlement that provided refuge to people threatened during 1798 rebellion.
Belfast City (Co Antrim and Co Down)
- Opposition to slavery in 18th century, focus on appropriate remaining 18th century buildings
- Liberalism and non- or anti-sectarianism in the 18th century, e.g. St Mary’s Church which Presbyterians contributed towards building, or the Assembly Rooms in North Street (venue for 1792 harp festival which helped preserve many Irish traditional tunes).
- (Various locations) Peace movement during the Troubles including the Peace People
- Stormont and elsewhere; The Good Friday Agreement and aftermath
- Interface areas: Organisations working together across Catholic/Protestant divides
- Alliance Party Headquarter, University Street – Previously constituency office of Anna Lo, first parliamentarian of Chinese origin in Ireland and one of the first in Europe.
- Site associated with Women’s Coalition and their contribution to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
- Groups working on refugee and asylum issues and welcoming people.
Various link organisations including community, peace, human rights and ex-Troubles/combatants groups
Local branch: Ormeau Road including Margaret McCoubrey, trade union and peace activist.
Kanturk – Birthplace of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington (statue)
Caherdaniel: Derrynane House, home of Daniel O’Connell (focus as above)
- Agreement on parading, e.g. the walls etc, and other peace process features
- The story of armaments firm Raytheon being thrown out of Derry
- Possibly cross-community work
Various link organisations
- Downpatrick (and other places); St Patrick defending slaves against ill treatment
- Long Kesh Prison, The Maze; Starting point of the Northern Ireland Peace Process (note the take on this – this would need explained in detail) – possibly linking in with proposed Conflict Resolution centre there.
- Castlewellan; a) Peace Maze celebrating peace in Northern Ireland b) Good relations between churches in the area.
- Chancing your arm’ (1492, St Patrick’s Cathedral)
- Economic boycott of Wood’s halfpence (1720s)
- Daniel O’Connell (O’Connell statue) as highly significant figure in the development of democratic politics in Ireland
- Francis Sheehy Skeffington and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington including Irish opposition to World War 1
- Transfer of allegiance to the Dáil by MPs in 1919 – did not require a single shot or bomb
- Dunnes Stores strike over apartheid, also possible focus on Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement
- Irish involvement with the United Nations (and League of Nations)
- Irish involvement in Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including Frank Aiken, 1958+.
- Hiroshima cherry tree, Merrion Square (nuclear disarmament)
- Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix bench in St Stephen’s Green
- Irish-Jewish Museum, Walworth Road, celebrating a minority who have contributed many public figures to Irish life.
- Groups working on refugee and asylum issues and welcoming people from outside Ireland.
Various link organisations.
Local branches possible.
Ballitore – Quaker village
Kildare – 1) Link with St Brigid and her giving away her father’s sword to a beggar so he could buy food.
2) Birthplace of Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-71), renowned scientist, social reformer and peace activist in Britain.
Portlaoise – First black mayor in Ireland elected, Rotimi Adebari, in 2007.
Rossinver – Organic Centre.
- Céide Fields – peaceful existence with no enemies millennia ago
- Boycott – giving a new word to the English language (and others) for a nonviolent tactic
- Michael Davitt Museum at Straide, Foxford; Davitt as significant reformer in relation to various topics, including land ownership
- Famine Walk Louisburgh-Doolough-Louisburgh, 1849, and Afri’s annual walk commemorating it.
- Rossport Protest and Solidarity Camp
- Famine Graveyard at Swinford and link with Michael Davitt
Defending heritage – the campaign to save Tara from the motorway
Birr; Cain Adamnan/Adamnan’s Law, AD /CE 697 – church synod defending non-combatants in war
Cloughjordan – Ecovillage.
Caledon – First direct action of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, 1968.
Glencree Centre for Reconciliation
*This list is only scratching the surface of what could be included – further suggestions welcome, contact firstname.lastname@example.org