I’m getting used to pouring my thoughts and feelings into my blog, I feel a little like a teenage girl who reaches for and writes in her diary for comfort but hey I’m just going to go with it! Whilst that’s probably not the most useful or coherent analogy I’ve ever come up with, what I mean is that this blog is proving to be an essential tool for me in the first few weeks of the WIP process; it’s allowed me to reflect more deeply and take in what’s going on!
I’m conscious that I’ve already written a blog this week and that I’m sure nobody wants to read me rambling on but a few things happened and were said yesterday that have made me feel hopeful for the summer ahead. Rather than document the various interesting activities we have carried out in the last few days, I want to take this particular blog back to the “Dealing with Difference” sessions we did with ex-paramilitaries and other facilitators, first in Belfast and then at Kippure Estate in Wicklow. During those sessions we formulated a working agreement, something which all of the WIP interns had to apply in their discussions over the course of the weekend and during the course of the Washington D.C. programme. If I’m totally honest (one of my SMART goals is to be more candid whilst in D.C.), I thought this area of the workshop was common sense and that there was absolutely no need for it, now I realise that it may have benefited us more than I thought.
Outside the workshops, yesterday at lunch as we sat in the scorching sun sipping on our ice cold Coke, it was brought to our attention that back in Ireland a controversy was emerging, Alan Shatter (Irish Justice Minister) had referred to “Londonderry” in the Dail. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the history and political reasons put forward for calling the area “Derry” or “Londonderry,” it’s worth noting that of course this was a contentious issue. Many of the people sitting around the table (I hope my fellow interns will forgive me for referring to them) had dramatically opposing views on the subject. A discussion pursued and whilst I can’t be sure that the Working Agreement had anything to do with it, I felt that every single person that had input was respectful of everybody else’s views. I may be exaggerating slightly by saying that there are many professional politicians that could not pursue this particular debate so rationally (you only have to look to the debacle over the Shared Future talks) but for me, it was a perfect example of how the Class of 2012 has so far taken a mature and level headed attitude to the major theme of this year’s programme, “Dealing with Difference.” There was no facilitator and we weren’t in a professional environment, conversations could have quite easily got out of hand and heated but it really encourages me that people were not nervous of broaching the issue but neither were we brushing any other view under the carpet!
In addition, yesterday I was also lucky enough to have dinner at my host family’s house with Paul Costello, the Executive Director of the New Story Leadership Programme. We discussed what he expected from his Israeli and Palestinian interns and what his philosophy was when he was more heavily involved with WIP. Paul explained an inspiring concept to me and one which sums up how I hope to apply my WIP experience in the future; he said when somebody opens a door for you (i.e. gives you an opportunity), don’t push that door open with both hands. The reason being that you need to put one hand forward to keep the door open but you also need to put one hand back to help others through the door. The workshops we have participated in so far and the people we have met have been pretty overwhelming and whilst I’m getting a lot out of each one, I’m still assessing how in the grand scheme of things, the skills I’m being equipped with and my development this summer will fit into the Northern Irish context. However I’m going to attempt to take Paul’s outlook and apply it to the eight weeks we have in Washington D.C. and to remember it as I embark on my career and use what I learn this summer.
Before I sign off (and don’t worry it’ll not be as cringe worthy as my last blog entry) I want to congratulate Jessica Caldwell for doing a fantastic job chairing the media panel discussion tonight, she was up against well renowned industry personalities and in my opinion she held her own incredibly well! Hats off to you Jessica!