Causeway Coast Peace Group (formerly Bushmills Peace Group) met on September 6th 2011 in Bushmills Presbyterian Church Minor Hall.
After a time of worship, led by Revd. Patrick Barton, Carol Anderson, Chairperson, welcomed with words of encouragement everyone to the tenth year of the ever-expanding Peace Group.
She introduced the Guest Speakers, Robin Young and Kathleen Gillespie, from Theatre of Witness. Theatre of Witness was started in Philadelphia, a city with a reputation for violence, by Teya Sepnuca who developed into a theatre performance stories told to her by both the mothers of murdered sons and, also, by men in prison for murder. She then introduced Theatre of Witness to Northern Ireland.
Robin, a serving policeman, described how he, as part of the Body Recovery and Identification Team had dealt, in the past, with the horrific carnage and its aftermath caused by acts of violence. After the Omagh bomb his desire to work for positive change led to his participation in Theatre of Witness’s performance of “We Carry your Secrets” in which people from all sides of the conflict told their stories. Through this he met Kathleen Gillespie, the widow of Patsy Gillespie who had been used by the IRA as a human bomb, and had died along with five soldiers.
Kathleen then spoke movingly and honestly about her life since her husband’s murder. She has worked tirelessly for the last 21 years for victims’ groups and reconciliation and eventually became took part in the second performance of Theatre of Witness, “I Knew a Girl” which was about women in conflict, when she shared the platform with a former IRA member.
Robin and Kathleen now offer workshops throughout the Province as part of their desire to turn young people from a romantic view of violence by exposing, through their stories and interaction with their audience, its cruel reality. Both agreed that while much has been achieved in reconciliation there is still much to do.
It was a privilege to hear the stories of these two committed and courageous people and the words which Kathleen placed on her husband, Patsy’s, headstone fittingly sum up the aspirations of all who seek a better future, “Lord, may he be an instrument of your peace”.
During a discussion period those in the Group who had been to Theatre of Witness spoke very highly of its impact and felt it should be available to a wider audience. It was a privilege to have Robin and Kathleen as guests and the Group wish them well in their future initiatives.
The programme for the coming year is a very interesting and varied one, and the Group would encourage people to come along. The next meeting is on 15th November in Billy Parish Church Hall when the speaker will be Dr Inderjit Bhogal from Corrymeela.