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Community groups celebrate unique reconciliation project

on .

 Click here to download press release Community groups in Derry-Londonderry and Ballymena today celebrated the remarkable achievements of an unlikely cross-community reconciliation project.

 

FORWARD-LEAFAIR-CARSON_-_1Funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the three-year ‘Forward Project’ saw the Leafair Community Association in Derry/Londonderry and the Ballymena-based Carson Project jointly address legacy issues of the past and conflict transformation initiatives.

 

Through the project, the groups – based in the largely Unionist Harryville area in Ballymena and the mainly Nationalist Greater Shantallow area of Derry/Londonderry – have shared experiences with former prisoners, security force members and those involved in the Troubles in an effort to understand different traditions and identify ways to share common ground.

 

Speaking at the event, Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland Board Member said: “This has been one of the most ambitious and rewarding projects supported by the Fund, given the type of contact being initiated and the distances literal and figurative between the two groups. A few years ago a reconciliation-focused project like this would have simply been unthinkable.

 

“The Forward Project has brought the groups to a position where they are comfortable to openly discuss the conflict and the legacy of conflict from their perspectives. It is not about gaining consensus on the past, but building confidence to move forward and provide a leadership role for others in the communities. The Forward Project is making a real and positive change within both communities and provides a marker for others to follow.”

 

Peter McDonald, Coordinator for the Forward Project said:

“The Forward Project has been an important step towards bringing together two very different communities that share similar issues.The programme has allowed each of us to gain a richer understanding of the conflict and its impact. It has been an important forum for create cross-community conversation and has achieved more than we expected when we began this journey three years ago.”

 

The Forward Project coordinated a number of single identity, cross-community and cross-border events have taken place involving the engagement of former combatants, former security forces, ex-prisoners both republican and loyalist, youth groups, senior citizens, women’s groups, men’s groups and community and voluntary groups.

 

The project has also engaged with cultural organisations including Ancient order of Hibernians, Apprentice Boys and Tar Abhaile as well as community partnerships in the Greater Shantallow area and Harryville.

 

Funding of £225,000 was provided by the International Fund for Ireland for the Forward Project, under its Community Bridges Programme.  Additional funding was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and Healing Through Remembering.

 

Click here to download press release