Peace jargon like this tells us nothing

The Londonderry Sentinel whom God preserve, reported the following story”

Forum held to encourage Protestant participation

The Gateway to Protestant Participation (GPP) hosted its second major discussion forum in the Mellon Country Inn, Omagh, with the aim of encouraging Protestant groups to get involved in good relations projects.

OK tell me more.

The GPP is a strategic programme designed to encourage the participation of the Protestant community by promoting a shared sense of belonging and addressing issues of marginalisation and tackling attitudes to racism and sectarianism, at a local level within the North West Peace III Cluster area.
The programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, through the EU programme for Peace and Reconciliation (Peace III) managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The purpose of this discussion forum was to provide an opportunity for Protestant groups, organisations, individuals and key stakeholders to share their views and opinions on Protestant engagement in good relations.

The guest speakers were Dr Jim McAuley, University of Huddersfield, Kate Clifford, Rural Community Network and Rev Earl Storey, who stimulated the discussions with an overview of their opinions and experiences of Protestant participation in both community development and good relations.
The discussion forum was well attended by people from across the four council areas – Londonderry, Strabane, Omagh and Donegal. Those who attended came together in small groups to discuss and explore issues related to and their experiences of good relations in facilitated workshops.

Is that it? Is this anything more than 17 pars of filler? Apart from reporting the Peace superstructure and the man lecturing them from front line Huddersfield etc, what was actually discussed ? Was it too sensitive to report? Was the journalist not allowed in/not present/ rewriting a handout?

What has it told us about the problems of the region? Nothing.

This is NOT journalism. It is NOT the EU Peace Funds being accountable either. Was it anything more than a free night out to be talked at by peace professionals?  Did it do any good?

Will we ever know?

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  • It’s all part of the ‘peace process’, Brian, it’s been going on for years. By the way, Prof Jim is a Belfast man who used to work for BT: It’s good to talk 🙂

  • fin

    “four council areas – Londonderry, Strabane, Omagh and Donegal.”

    Would that be the Derry City Council area?

  • Alias

    It tells me that you should use the word “shared” as often as possible when chasing free money (provided by taxpayers at the direct expense of their own purchasing power).

  • A guess but is this about the perception that Protestants both individually and in terms of groups have been under represented in the assorted “Peace” things and indeed monies. This might be a way to look at participation or the lack of it and the reasons behind it.

    As to it not being journalism: Walker may have something there though these days it is rather the pot calling the kettle black. Why ever was your blog: To be passively non sectarian is not enough pulled Mr. Walker?

    Before anyone gets excited about man playing I am merely highlighting that the great man (Walker) could be accused of the same things often enough.

  • Local Government Officer

    Without a shadow of a doubt, that press release was written by either a civil servant or a council officer. I despair.

  • Brian Walker

    nevin,, If they’ve been going on for years- what are the outcomes? Are they registered anywhere except in dry annual reports? Thanks for the info about Jim – a pity the story didn’t tell me. I’m not attacking the programmes, just the reporting and accountability.

  • Local Government Officer

    Brian, the accountability is there – it’s IN the dry annual reports. That’s the problem. That, and the fact that people in these jobs do not, cannot, or are not allowed to write with any sort of creative flair.

    I make no comment about local reporting, other than local press here *still* think (1) FoI is there to save them time, and (2) they can’t be arsed writing themselves and nine times out of ten, will just send a freelance photographer and print the press release verbatim.

    It verges on pathetic.

  • “a pity the story didn’t tell me”

    Brian, should you not have checked him out before you wrote ‘the man lecturing them from front line Huddersfield’? 😉

  • aquifer

    Protestants having had the whip hand for many years do not like to deal with catholics and nationalists on the basis of equality?

    Or they have always felt that elected representatives and the democratic state can sort the temporal stuff out, and ches the spiritual stuff, without the need for other forms of community organisation? Certainly few had a soft spot for the paramilitary form of community activism.

    Or they have a real fear that contact with the nationalist side may leave friends and relatives in the police vulnerable, due to the Irish separatist habit of spying on and shooting police personnel.

    Any way, they do not tend to get engaged with community organisation and cross community organisations to the same extent as nationalists, which leaves the nationalist side better set up to participate in shared stuff than protestants.

    Hence the need for odd stuff like GPP if shared stuff is to happen where it is most needed.

    I thought that someone with their finger on the pulse of the community would have divined this. Even if their professional colleague did not bother to show up to the meeting.

  • The Raven

    You of course mean “some Protestants”, don’t you? 😉

  • Cynic

    It’s disgraceful innit – imagine – spending money on Prods

  • Cynic

    Oh come on …that would be journalism

  • the blow – in

    The problem here is that EU Peace funded projects are required to create a certain amount of publicity around their work. In truth, most of this work isn’t particularly newsworthy from a journalists point of view, even though the work is very ‘real’ in terms of getting people together and helping to get cross community relationships going.
    So each group or cluster sends out a routine, not very interesting press release, and local papers, who are now very poorly staffed, just cut and past the whole thing to fill a gap on page 7 or 8.
    The funders are happy because the words EU Peace III appear in print, and the groups are happy because the funders are happy, and the only people who are unhappy are the people like Brian who are genuinely interested in what happened.
    Far better for all concerned if the silly publicity requirement was done away with and groups only went to the media when they had somthing interesting to say/

  • Christy Walsh

    But this does nothing to answer Brian’s question on what use is the GPP. All that you tell us is that the EU funders like to see some public reference made to them regardless of lack of quality or value for money from the project?

  • This will tell you more about SEUPB programmes, Brian. You’ll love this:

    “council areas, i.e. organisations and projects whose remit deals with a council area. This refers to the district council areas in Northern Ireland, county council areas in the Border Region, and the NUTS III region areas in Scotland”

    You might wonder why Sligo NUTS have been included and Lancashire NUTS have been left out in the cold? Whatever happened to the British, Irish and Other clause of the 1998 Agreement. Is the SEUPB indulging in cherry-picking? Surely not.

    I wonder if any deep-dive audits have been carried out on those projects where there has been paramilitary participation. There will be the suspicion that large wads of dosh have simply ‘disappeared’; that the cheque given to, say, a public artist doesn’t match the figure in the accounts received by SEUPB. Such an audit might make possible NIW Single Tender percentage ‘losses’ look like peanuts.

  • Theres certainly scope in all this for a discussion about the quality of journalism in local press.The Derry Journal for example hardly seems to reflect the fact that the city has a SDLP MP and 3 MLA s.At times it is apparently more interested in recycling the latest R A A D propaganda and Martina Andersons current views.Nothing wrong with reflecting all shades of opinion but the Sinn Fein press office seems to have easy access to its pages .Theres a story waiting to be told about the increasing control of SF in the voluntary sector in Derry but its unlikely to appear in the Journal pages.Im sure theres a similar story in West Belfast but will we hear about in the Andytown News.Dont hold your breath! Fearless journalism; Yeah right!

  • Rory Carr

    Line dancing ! That’s the answer. Let’s have lots of Catholic/Protestant line dances – the Catholics all line up on one side and the Protestants all line up on the other and then…..

    O.K. back to the drawing board.

  • Wouldn’t work –each line would be considered to be a parade.

  • Ann Doherty

    I googled Gateway to Protestant Participation and came across your article which kind of supports my feelings about this organisation. I have forwarded it to CWC and wanted to cc GPP but can’t find an email for the lead partner/management steering group so maybe they will access it through your site.

    I struggled with myself as to whether I would write this email or just do what we Protestants typically do and say nothing.
    I would like to start by saying please do not read this email and label me as a sectarian or a bigot, all I ask is you not only read this email but to hear what it is I’m saying, feel the hurt that has driven me to write this – and then if you feel you want to label me then that’s your choice to do so.
    I live and am an active member of very small rural minority Protestant community in West Donegal. I am originally from Letterkenny where my family still live and like my own family here are actively involved in the Church, Mothers Union, Girls/Boys Brigade. I am involved in many of my local community groups which are mainly cross community so I have a fairly good knowledge of community development and cross community/cross border groups. I am not an academic or someone who likes to be in the spotlight. I am an ordinary woman with a grown up family who has come to the stage in life, having lived through the troubles and the various peace processes and saw the effect atrocities carried out in the name of freedom not only impacted on the communities they were carried out in but the effect it had on my own Protestant community in Donegal, the impact it had on making us feel we shouldn’t be living here (even though we were born and bred in Donegal) and how it made us to an extent go underground and live by the old keep your head down, say nothing and don’t draw attention to yourself or indeed if put on the spot actually agree with the other side if it meant you and your family wouldn’t be singled out. So when the opportunity and dialogue at community level for voices to be heard started I felt that I couldn’t sit back and wait for someone else to stand up and be counted, I had to take some responsibility myself for encouraging my community to become involved at some level.
    When European Peace funding first came about in the early 1990’s the Protestant community North and South didn’t get involved or apply for the funding as they weren’t sure what it was, what was the payback in return, if it was for them, the Churches told us it was against the Church ethos so we couldn’t get involved, etc,. The second round of Peace 2 saw larger sums of money being handed out, but again the Protestant community were very reluctant to become involved for the same reasons but also because we realised that the other community was now way ahead of us when it came to filling in funding forms, knowing the language needed, having the confidence to work with other communities outside their own, having the skills and ability to know how to make those steps forward. The statistics showed Protestants were not engaging and at first it was being muted that it was because they were bitter, sectarian bigots but some of the more experienced community groups who were able to engage with small Protestant groups like women’s groups saw that this wasn’t always the case it was much more complex, it was lack of confidence, it was about fear of retribution, it was about not being given the same equality or fairness to have their voice heard. This was also very much our own fault as well as we didn’t stand up and be counted, we didn’t get involved or take the opportunity to speak up when it came, so we ended up with a few Protestant representatives who were always chosen as the Protestant tick box when one was needed to cover cross community participation. However as I’m sure you are more than aware of, there are so many diverse denominations within Protestantism that it was unfair that they would be representative of the “whole” Protestant community. Also what happened was that these representatives rather than actually speak for and about Protestants they made jokes about the foibles of Protestants and seemed to an extent wear rose tinted glasses when speaking about life for Protestants in Donegal, that we all lived happily side by side with our neighbours, when yes there was definitely a difference between Protestants in the south and north, Protestants here did not live equally side by side they were and still are tolerated here – as long as they don’t start speaking out about how and what their experience of life here is. So yes if that’s what ticks the box as cross community work where your representative makes the other community laugh at you and points out your shortcomings then dialogue had started.
    Since the Good Friday agreement I personally felt it was time for me to become more involved in cross community elements as I felt it was safer and it was the time for the Protestant community here to start the difficult discussions and hard topics, to be proud of who and what we are and also to inform the other community of what being a Protestant in Donegal means, how as a minority we continue to struggle to be accepted, to have our religion, culture and history acknowledged, respected and accepted. To no longer feel ashamed of who we are and to say this is our home, our country and we have a right to be a part of it.
    I encourage my community to engage with other communities, to get involved with people in cross community cross border events, groups, programmes, to encourage parents to get their young people involved so they don’t grow up with the same hang ups as we have. To foster and build good relationships with other religions, cultures and respect difference. I attend as many seminars, conferences, discussion forums as I possibly can so I can contribute my personal story of growing up and living as a Protestant woman, mother, grandmother, etc in Donegal and to show the positive progression and change that is happening for us as a community here. I then feedback to my own community the benefits and necessity of getting involved and making these changes happen for the good of all of our communities, that you don’t have to give up your religion, beliefs, morals or Christian ethos in fact the opposite it’s about informing and sharing especially when you are from such a minority community – if you don’t speak for yourself then you can’t complain you are being treated unfairly or feel discriminated against.
    I have attended a few events run by the CWC over the years and found them to be very helpful and beneficial for community groups I’m involved with, so when I saw your “How Sectarian are you” forum advertised I felt I would actively target Protestants to attend as the feeling is that when a Protestant attempts to talk about their religion, the Orange Order, wearing the poppy, etc., they are automatically branded sectarian and bigots, so this I felt this was the ideal platform to listen to different views on what is sectarianism, different types of sectarianism , to look at ourselves and how sectarian we are and to give our story on living as a minority in a Roman Catholic State and the issues and problems we have from the lack of representation at every level to having very few spokespersons to advocate for the Protestant community. I thought due to the topic that there would be a well balanced representation for all communities on the panel /guest speakers so got a good response when I asked who would be interested in attending. 10 of us agreed to attend and to actively participate in any discussions and to also take the opportunity to make links and network with other groups there who we could learn from and maybe get support on how to open up to our wider community. However when I saw the agenda and panel of speakers I was shocked, upset, hurt, undermined, humiliated and angry.
    At first glance I saw Cannon Brian Smeaton and thought he was a good representative for the Protestant community in Donegal only to discover he was actually advocating for the Ethnic community, which like Protestants are a minority community and need positive representatives, which is where I started to get somewhat confused as there are so many vibrant, well spoken and more than capable ethnic groups in Letterkenny alone who I would have thought would have been more appropriate to have speak on their behalf. However when I saw who was representing the Protestant community I was speechless, firstly I’d never heard of this Gateway to Protestant Participation project (which is obviously nothing to do with CWC) but please please explain to me how you felt it was a good choice to have a Roman Catholic be the spokesperson for the Protestant community, yes I can see she works for this project and is the Donegal worker which is again is beyond comprehension to anyone how this could be the way forward, are we as Protestants so pathetic, stupid, thick and ignorant that we not only need to be told/shown/dictated to about how and who we are by a Roman Catholic, but the lady isn’t even from Donegal, she is an ex SDLP Derry City Councillor who’s party no further away than yesterday came out and said their number one priority in their political agenda is for a united Ireland. How do you think this makes Protestants feel, especially those who are members of the Loyal Orders. Can you see how as a Protestant I would feel undermined as a person and a community who aren’t given the respect of having someone from our own community be our representative or is it that you genuinely aren’t interested in what it is we have to say and this is just a funding tick box.
    I am so hurt, upset and completely undermined by this that after all these years of promoting engagement that I will be doing the one thing I have been fighting for Protestants to stop doing and putting my head beneath the parapet again. Sadly no one from my community area will now be attending so instead of this being a positive opportunity for real engagement all you have achieved is causing upset, anger and deep pain.
    As I’m sure you’ll agree there are very few opportunities for Protestants in comparison to Roman Catholics as far as groups representative of them, with most of the community type work in Donegal through women’s groups and church groups, so as I have already stated I was rather confused to have not heard of this Gateway to Protestant Participation group so on researching it I realised that this group only works with 7 Protestant groups in Donegal with the majority based in East Donegal, it does not even come as far as Letterkenny never mind the rest of the smaller minority Protestant areas in West and South Donegal. I also find it rather strange that the other 2 workers are both Protestant and cover Northern Ireland (even though one of them lives in Donegal and may have been a fairer more relevant Protestant voice or at least given confidence for Protestants to get involved ) again this shows how little respect even this organisation has for the Protestant community in Donegal who it seems feel they would shut up and put up with anyone/thing we’re given, so not only are we undermined by our own Donegal community groups but also by Northern Protestant groups who feel we don’t deserve the same equality and fairness as their own.
    As I said at the beginning of this email I sincerely hope you can hear what I’m saying rather than being blinded by the idea that because I am saying I feel hurt because a Roman Catholic is being my voice and labelling me sectarian. I have lost faith in your attempt to address sectarianism in fact I feel you have actually been more sectarian in your actions against me as a Protestant and have caused a lot hurt and upset within my community.

  • Rory Carr

    One thing puzzles me, Ann Doherty and that is your expressed antipathy towards a united Ireland the prospect of which you seem to find alarming.

    “How do you think this makes Protestants feel, especially those who are members of the Loyal Orders?” you ask in all sincerity and the answer is that I do not know and would like you to tell us. I should have thought that a Donegal Protestant would have welcomed the inclusion in her nation state of one million other Protestants which, I would have thought, would have had a great impact on lessening any sense of isolation and intimidation that you might feel.

    Clearly I was wrong, but would you mind sharing your thoughts and feelings on this matter with us?