TWU students come face to face with Ireland’s conflict

Though many Langley residents are familiar with U2’s song “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” they may not know as much about the conflict and bloodshed in Ireland that inspired it. Trinity Western University’s professor of sociology, Craig Seaton, PhD is able to change that.

For the past decade, Seaton has conducted an Irish Speaker Series at TWU that has included many key political figures from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who represent views from all sides of the conflict. These unique and timely lectures, which are open to the public, have included Dr. Martin Mansergh, Special Advisor to the Irish Prime Minister on Northern Ireland affairs; Rev. Ken Newell, reconciliation activist and minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast; and Sir Anthony Goodenough, British High Commissioner to Canada.

This year’s first public lecture will take place January 23, 2003, at 7:30pm, with guest speaker Derek Poole, peace and reconciliation activist and Program Director of Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI).

According to Seaton, Poole identifies one reason for the continued conflict as the result of “both Catholicism and Protestantism identifying too closely with one political side or the other.” Through the creation of education materials, mediation of conflict circumstances and the staging of political events, Poole’s organization attempts to help the Protestant (unionist) side view politics and their faith in a way that’s unencumbered by a negative history.

“He’s a terrific speaker,” says Seaton, who first met Poole while researching peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. “The students hear him every year because we link up with a summer school that his organization puts on. Derek has always been one of the students’ favourite speakers.”

The summer school Seaton refers to takes place in Northern Ireland. Not only does this professor bring influential government officials and reconciliation activists from Northern Ireland to TWU, he also takes students to meet them on their turf—Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Throughout the past 10 years Seaton has directed the Irish Studies program, a semester-long program involving a six-week travel-study trip to Ireland. During that time Trinity Western students meet more than 50 key people on all sides of the conflict, including militants, political leaders, security forces and reconciliation activists. Notable meetings include Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern; Justice of the Irish Supreme Court, Catherine McGuinness; Northern Ireland’s First Minister, David Trimble and many more.

“It’s not like most university programs,” says Seaton, “which are confined and controlled in the space where we are doing it. We are giving the students an enormous opportunity to see what they are studying. Even more than that, instead of just reading about people who have made history, they get to meet them and ask questions of them.”

Seaton explains just how valuable a trip to the country of study can be for students.

“Over the years, students have had a chance to talk with people like former Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, who was deeply involved with the process leading to the cease fire,” he says. “He told them things about a conversation he had with Bill Clinton that led to the support of the American government—things that hadn’t been published. So students were able to learn things that just weren’t available any place else.”

Langley residents are encouraged to take advantage of the Irish Studies program, by attending any of this year’s four upcoming Irish Studies Guest-Speaker lectures at no charge.

Speaker: Derek Poole, Peace and Reconciliation Activist, Program Director of Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI)
Topic: “A Threatened Identity: The Source of Conflict in Northern Ireland”
Date: January 23, 2003
Time: 6:30pm (reception); 7:30pm (lecture)
Location: Reception in Alumni Hall, speech in Block Hall, Trinity Western University, 7600 Glover Road, Langley.
Cost: No charge

Further lectures include: Jeffery Donaldson MP, prominent anti-Belfast Agreement
member of the Ulster Unionist Party, whose will be speaking January 30, 2003 on the topic, “Re-thinking the Belfast Agreement—The Need for Change to Achieve a Real and Lasting Peace”; Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, Methodist Minister, peace and social justice activist, Superintendent of East Belfast Mission, February 13, 2003 on the topic “The role of the Church in Working for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation—the Special Role of Forgiveness”; and Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the date to be announced on the topic "Counter-terrorism, Police Reform, and Community Involvement in Northern Ireland". All lectures take place in the Block Hall of TWU at 7:30pm, reception at 6:30pm.

For more information on the Irish Studies Speaker Series please visit their website at http://www.twu.ca/isp/lectureseries.htm

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping