The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Two, Northern Ireland — Democracy and Social Change

The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Twenty-Two, Northern Ireland — Democracy and Social Change

By Megan Hennen, Northern Ireland Report #3

As mentioned in my last update, the group had ventured to Derry/Londonderry for the first of our three field studies. The second field study took place in Belfast famous for being the birthplace of the Titanic. However, our purpose in Belfast was to focus on what we came to Northern Ireland for, to learn about democracy and social change in Northern Ireland. Because this was our focus and we were studying under the HECUA program, we were presented with so many different opportunities that we otherwise would’ve missed out on and a couple examples of this were presented during our day in Belfast.

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We spent different parts of the day with three different men who played significant roles in the Troubles. All three men had once been a paramilitary (two IRA men, one UVF), all three had committed shocking crimes, and as a result, all three had received a life sentence in prison. But these guys were roaming Belfast freely because of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which had released all those imprisoned for committing crimes because of the Troubles. Prior to meeting these men, I was expecting to meet hardened criminals, but that’s just the opposite of what I saw. As they discussed the crimes they had committed and their experiences in the prison, I was almost in disbelief. I was anticipating monsters, but these former paramilitary members were so normal and that was kind of the theme of the day. They dehumanized the people they had murdered and bombed, they didn’t see the ‘other’ as being people. Now having been granted a second chance, these three men are doing what they can to put an end to the sectarian violence and trying to encourage the younger generations to not get involved in the violence. Although all three are hoping for a more shared society and peaceful future, they are still deeply set in either wanting to remain apart of the UK or having a strong desire to reunify Ireland.

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Photo #1 In the Milltown Cemetery in Belfast
Photo #2 This is a photo of the New Republican Plot memorial in the Milltown Cemetery
Photo #3 Shankill Bomb memorial
Photo #4 UDA/UFF mural (the end of the rifle points at you no matter where you stand in front of the mural)

The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013

(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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Filed under Megan Hennen, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

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