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Reaching For Peace

by  Charlie Murray

   Brigid McElroy is a manager of a Hospice Shop for the terminally ill and she has also been a part of Towards Understanding and Healing for many years. She is from Strabane which is where her story began over 40 years ago. Brigid was part of a large Catholic family that included nine children. Brigids father Seamus was an active IRA member that left his family behind and crossed the boader to avoid arrest.  However, he still still spent 1-2 years in prison three different times. He was away from his family for 40 years. During this time Brigid's mother Nora supported herself and the nine children as well as her husband. She did this in a town that had the highest unemployment rate in the industrial world and was once the most bombed town in Europe per size and was the most bombed town in Northern Ireland during the height of the "Troubles".

Brigid's family was considered IRA, which in her words means they were "treated as nobody". She was not actively involved, but she had two sisters that were. She has always kept herself and her family away from getting "actively involved" and she doesn't agree with hurting and killing. She wants to have a united Ireland, but "not at the cost of lives".

Brigid didn't know she had a story until she attended a residential. It was there that she realized what she had been through and that someone wanted to listen. She discovered that through the storytelling workshops people can share their stories and begin to heal. They build relationships as well. Some of her best friends are protestants and ex policemen. This is proof that peace can be built through dialogue.

Today, Seamus is back in Strabane and has been in a nursing home for seven years due to Alzheimers. Nora is in poor health, but her mind is strong. Brigid has managed to keep her own family from getting actively involved and is helping others through The Junction and Towards Understanding and Healing. Her hope is for a united Ireland, but she believes that Irelands future will be "tricky" because "everyone will never be satisfied, someone will always be starting up".

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