Texas jpg

Texas students learn about peace process

Texas jpg

Texas jpg

Dr. Lori Gallagher (third from right) and some of her students.

By Evan Short

A Texas-based academic who visits Belfast every two years as part of the course she teaches says she feels like the current Stormont impasse shows that society is moving on.

Dr. Lori Gallagher, who runs the William J Flynn Center for Irish Studies at the University of St Thomas in Houston, told the Irish Echo that because the parties were dealing with “bread and butter issues” it marked a development when so much of the past dealt with conflict related issues.

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The last time Dr. Gallagher visited the North was in 2013 when flag protests gripped Belfast, but this year the crisis is about the implementation of budgetary and fiscal policy.

Gallagher said the peace process was a key part of the curriculum at the university alongside the wider cultural study of Ireland.

She had traveled to Ireland to visit a number of organizations working to bring Catholics and Protestants together.

“Because peace and reconciliation are a cornerstone of our Irish Studies program, we were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Rev. Bill Shaw again this year and learn from him as a peacemaker within the community of North Belfast, as well as the wider community,” she said.

Conor Maskey from Intercomm, an organisation which works with former prisoners who help to maintain the peace, said he had met the Texas students to explain how work on the ground was developing a shared future.

“I spoke to them about the dynamics of the peace process and what I tried to get across was that, okay, Stormont is in crisis and while the arguments have a number of constitutional political issues related to them, it is really boiling down to how you treat the poorest in society.

“For years we had people crying out for Stormont to get down to bread and butter issues and that is what we have.

“The political institutions are in danger, but it’s over a political argument,” Maskey said.