Wrap-up Hands of History Project

Participants pictured on the international study visit to the Balkans
Participants on the international study visit to the Balkans - Courtesy of Joe Lynch

The Hands of History Project run under the Donegal CDB Peace and Reconciliation recently wrapped up its year-long programme of events and activities. The project itself at the outset was designed to provide an opportunity for Donegal and its surrounding counties to learn lessons from the past and apply them to the present day to create a safer, better future. It sought to ensure that various aspects of Donegal and the island of Ireland’s history were covered during the project’s activities throughout 2013. The project was delivered through an innovative programme exploring how we remember key events in our history, developing an understanding of how these events were experienced by different communities within the county and how these historical legacies have contributed to relationships today. Hands of At the Final Conference in November 2013, History project coordinator Sarah Thompson stressed the importance of legacy and how outcomes from the project could influence discussions on future peace and reconciliation work that in the future will be carried out within the county.

Some of the activities run by the Hands of History project throughout the year included an epilogues programme, designed to bring in an element to the project examining the recent past  in and around Northern Ireland. The project also looked at the Irish Diaspora, a theme explored through the hand of history conference in June 2013, run in conjunction with the Donegal Diaspora Project. Speakers at the conference explored the diverse experiences of those who emigrated from here to places as near as Scotland and as far as New Zealand and explored the impact they have had on their new homes. Two international study visits were also delivered as part of the hands of history project. The first of these explored the shared history of World War One and the other looked the more recent conflict in the Balkan region. A requirement from all participants on these programmes was that they would share their experience with their community on their return. Sarah also discussed the play, ‘The Broken Covenant’, specifically produced for the hands of history project. The play used the arts to open up discussion around the perspective of a minority community in Donegal after partition. A number of events and activities were also run with schools and local museums in each of Donegal’s electoral areas.

At the final conference participants on the Hands of History project noted a number of key learning points with three main themes emerging – Respect, diversity and learning. One conference attendant noted in particular how the conference has encouraged them to ‘open my mind to all views and beliefs’ while another added how the project has highlighted the ‘Acceptance of others views, validity of different opinions’ along with the fact that ‘there is rich life experience in Donegal’. Others noted the importance of understanding the diverse experience of all communities within Donegal and further afield when exploring ethical and shared remembering. All noted the importance of the Hands of History project in shaping future similar work that will take place in Donegal throughout 2014 and beyond.