Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Historic Reconciliation in Belfast, Northern Ireland


Co-operation Ireland is the leading peace-building charity on the island of Ireland.  Established as "Cooperation North" in 1979, it has created opportunities for groups from the two main religious communities in Northern Ireland and from both sides of the border to come together. They have learned about each other's traditions and cultural backgrounds in order to help build a society based on tolerance and acceptance of cultural difference.

As I tell in my memoir, Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind from 1982 - 1984, I served as founding Executive Director for Cooperation North in the US. One of my first decisions was to rename the organization "Cooperation Ireland."

On June 27, at en event hosted byCooperation Ireland at a Belfast theater, in a profound gesture of peace in Northern Ireland, Queen Elizabeth shook hands with a former IRA commander who is now deputy first minister of Northern Ireland. In 1979, Martin McGuinness was IRA chief of staff when the group blew up the yacht of Lord Mountbatten, the queen's cousin, killing him and two children. The President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins also attended. Peter Sheridan, current Chief Executive Co-operation Ireland said,

"Today is, in the words of [Irish poet] Seamus Heaney, a day in in which hope and history rhyme. It is a significant milestone on the road to reconciliation on this island and between our two islands."

Spanning locations across the globe, "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines," also tells the story of the inner workings of the Legion of Christ which I was involved with (before Cooperation Ireland.)  Some have described it as a dysfunctional, cult-like organization, which suffered from the influence of its dysfunctional CEO.

"It is often moving, frequently funny, very entertaining, and always memorable."

No comments: