Ruth Herlihy considers the meaning of ‘dealing with difference’

The theme of the program this summer is “dealing with difference”. I understood why the theme was chosen because of the differences people in the north of Ireland have faced. However I come from a very rural background in the south of Ireland in Waterford and in all honesty I never had much experience with the issues in the North. I’m embarrassed to say that the first time I even crossed the border was last April for our first orientation weekend.

Since being chosen, I have often felt that the theme chosen didn’t apply to me or that I couldn’t relate to it. I kept asking myself “how have I dealt with difference?” I never regarded myself as being hugely political; I have often kept my views and opinions to myself so as to avoid conflict. Last summer I was told that I was someone who chooses to avoid conflict. On being informed of this, I let it fly over my head and didn’t give it much thought.

I have now learnt though that it is not that the theme of dealing with difference didn’t apply to me. It is more that I am scared to deal with difference and at times scared of being challenged mentally. I used to rather just accept that my view didn’t matter and that I should forget about the compromise and surrender to what somebody else believed. I was a sheep, excuse the agricultural reference but I do miss my farm at home.

While this is probably something that I should have learnt about myself some years ago, I came across this new revelation when we started working in our WIP papers last week. As a law student I jumped at the opportunity to share my views and opinions on the topic “Recommendations to the forthcoming Constitutional Convention in the Republic of Ireland”.

In our group we have about 10 people dealing with this discussion and when you have this many people discussing such a controversial topic we are certainly dealing with difference. I have spent the past two years in my degree learning about the Irish Constitution and I love that I get the chance to apply my knowledge. More importantly I can see that I am dealing with difference within our group. We are given the opportunity to apply the necessary skills of listening, thinking and speaking up while remaining respectful to the views of others. The difficulty in writing a paper with this many people is trying to get everyone’s views down in 3000 words in a way that isn’t in conflict with the views of others! I just hope that we have learnt how to compromise with each other to make this a great paper!


One thought on “Ruth Herlihy considers the meaning of ‘dealing with difference’

  1. Very interesting post Ruth – especially the agricultural references.. Look forward to reading the next one.

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