- HRH Prince Charles returns to leading peace centre to unveil commemorative poem engraving with His Excellency President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins
- Leaders from cultural, educational, political and business sectors mark special event
‘I will house peace’ she says, ‘a prince will come from Wales to do me honour and I shall blend the echoes of Welsh soldiers with sounds of children’s laughter and the distinctive accents of the North’.
Extract from poem by Una O’Higgins O’Malley, founding member of Glencree.
A celebration of peace took place today, 20th May 2019, in the Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation (Glencree) to mark the return visit of HRH The Prince of Wales accompanied by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina welcomed the couple.
The visit was also attended by leaders across civil society. A poem written by the late founding member of Glencree, Una O’Higgins O’Malley and written to honour The Prince’s 2002 visit was read to the audience by young people from three schools working with Glencree. After the recital, a specially commissioned engraving of the poem in Wicklow granite was jointly unveiled by His Royal Highness Prince Charles and President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.
Speaking at the event, Barbara Walshe, Chair of Glencree said: “The symbolism of today’s event, reminds us of how deeply entwined our countries are, physically, socially, economically, culturally and historically. While much of this history has been acknowledged as difficult and has given rise to conflict, we have found that an answer lies in the restoration of relationships through dialogue.
Despite the recent fractures, our work is to maintain and develop those relationships in times of tension. What we have learned over the last forty years at Glencree, is the necessity to build or sustain relationships through dialogue in quiet, confidential spaces. There is then the prospect of the transformation of those relationships into something enduring which transcends difficult situations”.
The event at Glencree, the first in a series of events on a visit to Ireland by HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, showcased a series of key programmes run by Glencree. The highlighted programmes spanned the areas of Women in Leadership, Legacy and Young Peacebuilders. At today’s event three closed sessions, one covering each programme area, were jointly visited by HRH The Prince of Wales, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and Ms. Sabina Higgins. Each session enabled the participants to share their experiences of conflict, peace, reconciliation and their hopes for the future.
Also speaking at the event, Naoimh McNamee, CEO, Glencree said: “Many unlikely and transformative conversations have happened here in Glencree. Many courageous people from across the islands have come here, sometimes at risk to themselves, to be challenged and to challenge the difficult narratives that have characterised our history. That had a powerful transformative effect on how we saw each other but perhaps most fundamentally how we learned to speak to each other. This event today symbolises language in the present and the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales with President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins here in Glencree speaks to the progress that can be made when people learn to speak to each other in a spirit of generosity. Today with the return visit of HRH The Prince of Wales along with Glencree Patron, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, Glencree honours the past and looks with confidence to the future.”
The event was attended by pupils and teachers from three schools working with Glencree on improving the understanding of young people about British-Irish relations. Students and their teachers from St Colmcille’s Community School (Wicklow / South County Dublin), St Louis Secondary School for Girls (Dundalk), and New-Bridge Integrated College (Banbridge, NI) shared their reflections and the future relations across these islands. As part of the event, students from the three schools recited the poem ‘The Old Barracks at Glencree’ (full text below) to the assembled guests.
Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation has been a consistent force for peace on the island of Ireland since it responded initially to the vicious outbreak of violence in the North of the island in the early seventies. Over the last forty years it has maintained its founding ethos, that of facilitating difficult, quiet conversations when they are needed.
The enduring peace in Ireland, the thousands of lives saved by that peace, not to mention the jobs, hope and prosperity it has brought must never be taken for granted and must never succumb to violence or the threat of violence again. Glencree remains a special place, a place where impossible conversations become the reality that leads to a peaceful present and a peaceful future. Glencree has always looked outward and we will continue to share our experience of peacebuilding through dialogue with groups in need of support here in Ireland and around the globe.
Notes to editors:
Glencree (www.glencree.ie) was established in 1974 and works tirelessly to promote peace, reconciliation, and inclusivity on the islands of Ireland and Britain. Since 1974, Glencree has engaged in practical peacebuilding and reconciliation in Ireland, North and South, and more recently, internationally. We work with former combatants, community leaders, victims/survivors, politicians, faith groups, young people and women. We aim to transform violent conflict with sustainable peaceful methods by including and respecting all stakeholders.
Glencree, situated in a beautiful valley in the Wicklow Mountains, is the Republic of Ireland’s only peace and reconciliation centre. It played an important role in the Northern Ireland peace process, bringing the warring sides together for numerous confidential face-to-face meetings between 1994 and 2007. Glencree has worked throughout its history to share the lessons of the Irish peace process with war-torn countries all over the world. Glencree has shared the lessons of the Irish peace process with people in war-torn countries all over the world: from Israel/Palestine to Colombia, Sri Lanka to Liberia, Afghanistan to Haiti. It has brought volunteers from more than 40 countries to Ireland to learn about peace-making.
Today Glencree’s main work and focus is on:
- Working with groups and individuals who have been particularly traumatised by the violence of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, losing family members and other loved ones. It is estimated that there were around 40,000 violent incidents in the North during the period 1968-1998.
- Providing peace education courses to school and university students all over Ireland, teaching them about working to overcome conflict, exploring identities and diversity, and developing leadership skills.
- Working with women in disadvantaged communities on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland so that their voices can become a powerful weapon to help combat the culture of silence and fear that is so prevalent in that society.
- Promoting the integration into Irish society of refugees and other vulnerable migrants through a programme of inter-cultural dialogue that listens to their largely unheard voices and combats racism and xenophobia.
- Working with young Muslims in Ireland and Europe, many of whom have been largely abandoned by their host societies, to provide them with opportunities to give purpose to their lives by actively contributing to those societies.
- Finalising plans for an ambitious expansion of the beautiful Glencree site, to include refurbished accommodation alongside the popular Armoury cafe, a peace and remembrance garden, and a greatly expanded interactive visitor centre and exhibition/ conference space.
Glencree is supported by the Dept of Foreign Affairs through the Reconciliation Fund, the Office of Public Works, The Tony Ryan Trust its members and friends.
In June 2015, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins gave the opening address at an event in Glencree entitled ‘1916 and the Ethics of Memory’. The full text of the speech is available here: https://www.president.ie/en/media-library/speeches/1916-and-the-ethics-of-memory
Full text of poem
Below is the full text of the poem written in 2002 by Una O’Higgins O’Malley following the visit to Glencree by HRH The Prince of Wales. The poem was engraved in granite to commemorate the return visit of HRH The Prince of Wales and was jointly unveiled at a special event in Glencree today, 20th May 2019.
The Old Barracks at Glencree
Una O Higgins O Malley (2002)
The old Lady clutches her shawl of clouds around her bony shoulders
And gazes down the valley
Hugging a dream that no one can measure;
One day she will be filled again, she knows,
Though clamorous rooks make nurseries in her hair
and the prying sky gapes in through rotting rafters.
‘I will house peace’ she says, ‘a prince will come from Wales to do me honour and I shall blend
the echoes of Welsh soldiers with sounds of children’s laughter
and the distinctive accents of the North’.
‘Some will come here to pray’ she says ‘some to build and I shall reach them all because my bridge will then be sturdy and I shall hold them in my house in harmony’
And so, she dreams in solitude and silence,
Confident of her appointed destiny.