Dealing with Difference

Philip O’Callaghan reflects on his journey to Belfast and WIP Orientation

The weeks seemed to pass by so quickly and the weekend in Belfast was upon us. After all the logistics has been organised a two car convoy left DCU for Belfast. The chat continued fiercely as we left Dublin, the small talk was well and truly over and we began changing the world in the 2007 Nissan Note as it flew along the motorway.

As we approached Belfast it was like I was a child again, looking out the window in excitement at this new place. Belfast was a place that I had only visited once before while this was a short trip I managed to do an Open Top Bus Tour. I was familiar with its history so the context of the days ahead where firmly rooted.

We eventually reached the conference centre after having some navigation problems. We began to mingle with people and every time we would see someone in Dress Code 1 we would say, ‘WIP’ to which they would respond and the conversation would unfold.

It was down to business and the orientation had begun. Over the course of the weekend I certainly was challenged in every dimension. For me the most thought provoking phase of the weekend was the workshop on, ‘Dealing with Difference’. As I made reference to above I was familiar with the ‘Troubles’ up North, I had seen the news, I had read the stories however what I felt after listening to Gerry and Alistair was something that I had never felt before. I observed the room as the workshop continued people seemed overwhelmed and at times they looked quite upset. I for one had knots in my stomach, the sense of emotion was building.

When the workshop had ended I fell back into the seat and took a deep breath, I felt as if I had gone three rounds with Mike Tyson. I was exhausted, I was emotionally drained but I was full of a sense of inspiration, not of the actions of these two men that discussion is for another day, I was inspired by their vision, their ability to look forward and accept change with two open hands. We cannot change the past I certainly can’t, to paraphrase former President Mary Robinson we can now begin to create new beginnings.

I returned home after the weekend quite lost in some regards, the weekend was intense, it was fulfilling and it was challenging. I was never given the opportunity to sit down by myself over that weekend to reflect, at home on Sunday evening the time had arrived. I tried to relate the experience to my parents but I was not successful, words just could not sum up the weekend.

All 30 of the class that Sunday evening had gone our separate ways but I was safe in the knowledge that they too had been challenged to think about the weekend in a way that I never thought I would have had to.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.
John F. Kennedy