Parade today to honor James Connolly|
(By Ned Hoskin, Staff reporter)
TROY ‹ The money raised for Troy's tribute to Irish patriot James Connolly defrayed the cost of erecting a monument in the Riverfront Park.
Those responsible are hoping the leftover money will help break down barriers erected over generations, and keep them down.
Troy's James Connolly commemorative committee provided $2,800 for Between, an agency in County Cork, Ireland.
The program offers opportunities for people from both sides of the religious/political conflict in British Northern Ireland to get away from the danger and tension that has became a way of life. Both Catholics and Protestants participate.
The travelers ‹ mostly women and children related to those imprisoned as a result of the conflict ‹ have never known anyone from the other side.
They travel together to Cork and spend a week or two in an old retreat, relaxing and getting to know each other.
It is operated as a non-profit organization by Michael McKervey and Rev. Brendan E. O'Mahony, professors of organic chemistry and philosophy, respectively, at the University of County Cork.
According to James Devine, local chairman of the commemorative committee, the experience can change people's lives.
"People have always said it would take generation after generation to eliminate these horrible prejudices people have. But for these families, the barriers were broken down forever...
"The City of Troy, with the little event we put on, has contributed to the most constructive thing in modern Irish history."
Devine, a Belfast native who has lived in America for nearly 20 years, recently delivered the money to Belfast.
As a known American activist of Irish Catholic background, he had to be smuggled into the Protestant portion of town to visit some families who benefitted from Between.
"They apologized," he said, "but they realized if the wrong people knew I was there I would be killed and there was nothing they could do about it."
One of those he met was a man who had been imprisoned for violence perpetrated as a member of a Protestant paramilitary group. This man, whose family visited Between while he was behind bars, was convinced with much coaxing to visit the place when he got out.
The man told Devine of the skepticism and anger he felt when his family said they wanted him to go to the south and consort with Catholics. But as a result of his experience at Between, he realized his enemies are people like himself, sick of conflict.
The man later volunteered six weeks of his time as a kitchen worker so others could share the experience.
The agency is open only during the summer and spring months, simply because it cannot afford the $20,000 needed to install a heating system for the building.
During his visit, Devine met with Chris Kirwin, president of the International Transit and General Workers Union in Dublin. Together they are working to erect a monument to Connolly in the General Post Office of Dublin, where the patriot was mortally wounded in 1916.
The Irish American Labor Coalition also has made a commitment to the project. They hope to have it erected by the end of next year.
The Connolly tribute in Troy also generated a $1,000 gift for Joseph's House and Shelter.
[ Troy ]