The Messines Experience builds brighter futures by remembering the fallen...

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Business in the Community in partnership with the International School for Peace Studies has successfully delivered a shared history learning programme with a cross community delegation from the North East PEACE III area.

The group from the Council areas of Coleraine, Limavady, Moyle, Ballymoney, Ballymena and Larne, who are currently taking part in the Building Brighter Futures Project, travelled to France and Belgium on a three day study visit to develop their understanding of the consequences of war and conflict.

The project which is delivered by Business in the Community, on behalf of the North East PEACE III Partnership, is funded under the European Union’s PEACE III Programme and is managed on behalf of the Special EU Programmes Body by the North East PEACE III Partnership.

Representatives from the 6 Council areas visited the Somme in France and Messines, Belgium where they learnt about soldiers from an Ulster Unionist and an Irish Nationalist background who fought side by side in the First World War. This initiative aims to further reconciliation between communities in the North East.

The group visited significant memorial sites which included; The Ulster Tower, Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the 16th Irish Division Cross at Guillemont, The Island of Ireland Peace Park and Round Tower and the Execution Cells at Poperinge. Several participants were deeply honoured to attend and lay a wreath in remembrance during the “Last Post” ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres.

The Building Brighter Futures Project encourages cross community dialogue and the ‘Messines Experience’ was created to engender a deeper appreciation of the devastating effects of conflict in our local communities. It supports mutual respect, compromise and communication along with reconciliation through the theme of remembrance.

Danny McGinley, Programme Manager at Business in the Community described the trip as: “An experience that not only surpassed the expectations of the project but also created a momentous shift in attitude within the group towards how they can help reinforce peace in Northern Ireland.”

Mr McGinley added: “The Messines Experience has formed an emotionally determined group of people who want to see the Peace Process not only work but provide a legacy for all.”

If you’d like to get involved in the Building Brighter Futures Project, e-mail danny.mcginley@bitcni.org.uk for more information or call (028) 7186 1550 or visit www.northeastpeace.com