[US to Northern Ireland 2012] Chris McCannell on “craic” in Northern Ireland
Today’s post comes from Chris McCannell, VP of Government Relations for APCO Worldwide and escort for ACYPL’s 2012 US to Northern Ireland program.
No “craics” in the Irish Peace Process
Often when you visit an Irish pub, go to a dinner or party the Irish will say that it is good “craic” pronounced crack. When Americans hear that their ears normally rise. This isn’t the American crack you are thinking of but a certain style of fun and good will that is truly Irish.
Since the Good Friday/Belfast Accord in 1998 and the re-established Stormont Assembly in 2007, Northern Ireland has moved from a history of communal conflict and distrust to a true democracy with all parties; Protestants, Catholics, Nationalists and Unionists as stakeholders.
Visiting Northern Ireland for a week as the guest of the Speaker demonstrated to me first hand how trust and dialogue has taken the place of bullets and bombs. From a meeting with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, to a visit to an Irish Cultural Center on the nationalist Falls Road to a visit to the more Unionist Carrickfergus Council we met political leaders committed to making the Peace Process work. We walked across a new bridge in Derry/Londonderry which connected the historically Catholic city center to a Protestant neighborhood which was a center of the Troubles.
Challenges do remain; the economy of Northern Ireland is having the same challenges as the rest of Europe and the USA. Schools are mostly segregated along religious lines. So-called peace walls block off Catholics and Protestants in too many neighborhoods. Through it all people are committed to making a better, more inclusive Northern Ireland. We visited an integrated elementary school. We met young politicians from all stripes working cross community lines. We saw children learning Irish and taking advantage of a new cultural center. Northern Ireland is certainly not as diverse as the USA, and the harm that the Troubles caused will take a long time to be forgotten, but throughout the country and in talking to every community the resounding view is that Northern Ireland wants to move forward.