"Future peace in Northern Ireland depends on the ability of people from diverse traditions to accommodate their differences and build on similarities."1
There are many established organizations in Northern Ireland focused on helping communities suffering violence. These various organizations provide comfort in a number of ways. The Corrymeela Community is one such organization, promoting reconciliation and peace-building within communities. Corrymeela was founded in 1965 and has 150 members with over 5,000 supporters worldwide. This organization focuses on residential experience in an attempt to foster openness. Corrymeela believes when idividuals interact with new people in a new setting, old traditions and veiws can change for the better. This experience allows new routines to be created and carried into everyday life. With a focus on personal growth and exploring one's identity, Corrymeela believes individuals are more likely to accept to others once comfortable with themselves. This organization also works with former prisoners to help them gain needed experience to live peacefully in the community again.2
Often, individuals involved in conflict develop an "us" versus "them" thought process, which leads to the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error is a concept concerning one's attributes. Individuals effected often attribute their own behavior to situational causes, while attributing the behavior of others as a personality flaw.4 Corrymeela assists in allowing people to take a harder look at their actions first, before creating negative perceptions of others. The Corrymeela Community helps people see that their perceptions of others may not always be correct.
This organization also uses the contact hypothesis, which is the idea that contact with members of the other group should reduce prejudice.5 Corrymeela includes this in their programs to help reduce tension and stereotypes about the other group, and they provide a neutral, peaceful oasis for discussions to be held and progress to be made. Participation is voluntary, staff supports the activities, and the groups are equal in status in the program in order to make the contact productive in disconfirming stereotypes.
Doubling may have occurred for many individuals involved in the conflict. Two differing identities are created in extreme situations in order to justify actions in many situations while only being a single person.6 Corrymeela works to help individuals find their true identity and acknowledge it so they can understand others’ identities throughout the troubles. Individuals also need to understand their true identity to be able to begin truth telling.
Lies have been told all too often in the case of the Northern Ireland conflict. By giving people a safe place to tell their true stories, Corrymeela allows these individuals to have the confidence to tell the truth in front of the other side’s members. People want to justify their actions in troubling times, but many times this requires lying. Corrymeela’s efforts, along with many others’, are to move towards peace by finally interacting truthfully with other individuals by reducing lies and gaining openness.
The Museum of Free Derry opened in the summer of 2006. The museum uses Free Derry as a term to explain the area including Bogside, Brandywell, Creggan, Bishop Street, and Foyle Road. The organization intends to show the city’s history through the eyes of those who experienced it first hand. The involvement in being able to tell one’s story and listen to others’ is believed to help people better understand the events leading up to the conflict. The 25,000 items on display in the museum come from the city’s residents, making the experience of visiting the museum even more personal. The museum works to educate visitors on the conflict and the impact it had on residents and to play an active role in the community. Many jobs for community members are also provided through the museum.7
Healing Through Remembering came to the surface as a program for truth finding about the conflict. Nineteen diverse individuals established themselves as the Project Board in order to discuss, debate, and eventually start the program. The project lets people remember their experiences and the events involved in the conflict and also helps them reflect on their emotional reactions. Work done in the program also includes a way to help members move forward from the conflict.8
The project’s logo (to the left9) is an illustration of the ulex europaeus, also known as the whin, gorse, or furze. Rural community members have benefited from the plant by using it for cattle food, cleaning purposes, and dye for Easter eggs. This plant also acts as a welcome blanket after the bleak winter.10 This logo may be used to help show people that good can come after conflict and miserable times.
Through truth telling, individuals are able to tell their stories and share their emotions and reactions about the events they experienced. With their stories, individuals have the opportunity to recognize and understand their perception of reality during the conflict and now. Sensory perception is most often used in everyday lives when everything is normal to them. By using this perception, they weigh the benefits and consequences before they act. People with a mythic perception do not think things through as they should; this usually happens during wartime.11 Those who share their stories can reflect on their perceptions and begin to understand why they used the mode they did. Many of the individuals we met with have been throught this process, and now find themselves in a much better place than they were during and directly following the height of the conflict.
Alternatives to Violence is a volunteer group that offers experimental workshops in conflict resolution, responses to violence, and personal growth. Alternatives is an organization that helps others resolve issues through restortive justice. "Resortive justice is about bringing the offender back into the community" They help others confess what they did wrong instead of placing the blame on others. This helps bring about forgiveness between individuals who have long underlining issues. Alternatives also works with the youth in its surrounding areas to help stop the violence and the trouble making. Alternatives also helps with leaving violent institutions. Some members that were involved in paramilitary groups work with this organization to help assure that the violence of the troubles does not return to their community. They have left their violent institutions to help promote peace education and research in their community.
The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) is a non-party political, anti-sectarian human rights group which advocates non-violent resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict. This group believes human rights were violated by all participants in the conflict because the State did not maintain that “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”; they work towards this goal. The PFC networks with other groups to become involved with long-term issues dealing with policing and the criminal justice system. They work with families and security forces to document experiences and work towards truth recovery. The PFC works in partner with Healing Through Remembering.12