In May 2015, Glencree announced the start of the Young Peacebuilders 2015 programme, a cross-border initiative aiming to “establish a group of young (18-24) Peacebuilders across the island of Ireland, north & south”. The aim of the programme was to establish a core group of young leaders who are passionate about and committed to peacebuilding. A second aim of this programme was to train and empower this group to eventually be able to become self-sufficient or sustainable.

The application form went live in May 2015, and we received over 50 applications over the next few weeks. Project co-ordinator Eamon Rafter and facilitator Kieran Allen met the applicants in a series of workshops in July that took place in Dublin, Dundalk, Belfast, and Dungannon. These workshops introduced the four main themes of Identity, the Legacy of Conflict in Ireland (north & south), Leadership, and Peacebuilding and Reconciliation. Participants were very keen to engage in political dialogue with people from different backgrounds. They also had strong and passionate opinions about social justice, and most of them had come from a background of having been involved in community.

Following these introductory workshops, a core group of 18 was selected, and met together for the first time in Newry in August 2015. The day was spent in team building exercises, political dialogue, and planning for the documentation process. The group was also joined by actor, director, and drama facilitator Jenny MacDonald and film-maker and facilitator Martin McKenna who introduced further material that was to be explored on the residential.

The Young Peacebuilders 2015 group attended a residential at Glencree late September 2015. Three days were spent together exploring the four key themes, as well as engaging in dialogue, team building, and outdoor activities. According to feedback, the residential was a very positive experience for the participants, and created a sense of hope for many of them. Despite their differing backgrounds, their shared commitment to working to build peace unified them.

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In October, a follow up meeting in Belfast took place, including a cross-community tour of West Belfast (Falls Road and the Shankill). However, a poorer turn out led to the team calling for further and more specific training in order to move the project forward. A date was set for a training day in Dundalk, which took place in December. Morale was positive for this meeting as the group started looking in more depth at specific peacebuilding skills and concepts, however, many people pointed out for the group to start taking the reins of the project. It was therefore decided that in order for the group to up their game, there further training and group cohesion was needed.

March 2016 saw the second residential gathering in Derry-Londonderry, where the training started in December was continued, and a plan of action was developed. The weekend was very intense, and included a dialogue session with an ex-British army solider, two ex-paramilitary members, and a victim of sectarian violence. There was also further group dialogue, which lead to a defined project, delegated roles, and a timeline. The project plan is for the participants to share their learning in educational institutions and bring something back to their own communities. They will continue to have a reference to Glencree and we hope to stay connected and offer them whatever support we can.

We are grateful to the DFAT Reconciliation Fund for supporting this work and feel that it can have a much broader impact when we begin to share the learning at a later stage. In April 2016, we launched a new round of YPB. For more details click here.