Today’s post is written by Meg Voetberg:

We picked up the day with a short session on “reconciliation through education” with Mary Potter, the wife of our charming Stormond tour guide. We looked first at what is arguably the core issue in the Troubles: sectarianism. She taught us about the meaning and impact of sectarianism and then challenged us to rank various actions on the level of sectarianism they betrayed. Moving into education, Mary broke down the basics of the UK school system, which Northern Ireland uses, in order to help us understand the way the denominational segregation formed and the efforts that have been made to integrate. This tied in incredibly well Season 2, Episode 1 of Derry Girls which, coincidently, we’d watched that morning at the hostel. 

Heads full of theory we headed to the coast, arriving, after a short bus ride, at Giant’s Causeway. Under a light mizzle of rain we hiked the edge of the seaside cliffs before descending to the sea’s edge. Legend says that the columnar basalt formations are the handiwork of a lovesick giant trying to build a walkway across to the Scottish coast. Stepping stones or not, we enjoyed clambering over them, snapping photos and admiring the view, especially as the rain stopped. Upon returning to Bushmills, the group was given a bit of time to roam. Our hostel is located on the main road of the city’s shopping district, where we have discovered many great ways to explore the Irish gastroculture and contribute to the local economy, if you know what I mean. 

After dinner, we were joined with another lovely guest, Carole Kane, a community artist and peace worker. She guided us through the creation of a large painted banner composed of only 6 shapes repeated freely across. After we finished our masterpiece, Carole explained how our work brought us through various emotions tied to conflict as well as created a visual representation of what peace could look like. Carole then shared her personal story of using art to aid reconciliation, which started shortly after the Omagh bombing of 1998 and continued even through our painting that evening.