Integrating Communities Support Phase Networking and Best Practice Residential
08 March 2010
The Canal Court Hotel in Newry was the setting for a recent cross community/cross border peace building event organised by the Rural Development Council. The event marked the end of the Support Phase of the pilot Integrating Communities Programme, which was launched in February 2008 and funded by the International Fund for Ireland.
The event was attended by representatives of 23 of the groups that have been involved in the Support Phase of the programme to date. It began with a reflection workshop whereby participants shared with each other the challenges and experience of delivering their partnership peace building projects within each of their communities. The workshop examined a variety of projects which undertook a diverse range of activities and focused on youth, traditional skills, local culture, heritage and older people.
The afternoon session allowed participants the opportunity to visit other communities undertaking good relations projects in partnership in the County Armagh area. This included a visit to extended premises of the SAVER/NAVER victims support group in Markethill Co Armagh, where the delegation was joined by International Fund for Ireland chairman Denis Rooney CBE.
Mr Rooney commented: “The Integrating Community Organisations Programme is at the very heart of the Fund’s work. It has provided a truly unique combination of support, training and funding to bring together a wide range of community groups to deliver genuinely shared projects and experiences for their wider communities.
“While we have made great progress towards peace, we still live in a largely segregated society – sometimes living very separate lives from our closest neighbours. The courage of organisations and communities who are attempting to build relationships with those from the other tradition should not be underestimated. Just a few years ago, it would have been almost unthinkable for some of these communities to work together. Their achievements should give us real hope for the next generation. It is only by bringing communities together in such practical ways that we can build lasting peace.”
Having had an opportunity to hear about the partnership work of SAVER/NAVER and view the peace garden and memorial wall the group then departed and where taken to Crossmaglen where they met with South Armagh Rural Women’s Network the community organisation who are partnering SAVER/NAVER in delivering a peace building project ‘Behind the Masks’.
Friday’s activities came to a close with a short address by Mr David Costello of the Department of Foreign Affairs who outlined the background to the Southern Governments input and commitment to the peace process. He also gave an overview of the Reconciliation and Anti Sectarianism Funds available to community groups to develop lasting and meaningful relationships on a cross community basis.
On the Saturday morning the groups where given the opportunity to hear from a partnership supported by the Project Phase of the Integrating Communities programme. Dennett Interchange in partnership with the Learmount Community Development Group is currently implementing the ‘Community Cohesion’ project, to build relationships between the villages of Donemana and Park.
The final element of the event was a ‘Way forward’ workshop, which allowed the partnerships to reflect on the work undertaken to date and where to go from here before being presented with certificates to mark their participation on this very successful pilot initiative.
The Rural Development Council are delighted to announce that further funding has been secured from the International Fund for Ireland and the Integrating Communities programme will re-open later in the year.