The Spirit of Enniskillen Trust is an organisation promoting reconciliation, dialogue and the fulfilment of young people’s potential – founded in a spirit of forgiveness after a 1987 terrorist attack.
The Spirit of Enniskillen Trust supports young people to contribute towards dialogue, learning and change in Northern Ireland.
The Trust was established in the aftermath of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) bombing of the centotaph in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday, November 8th 1987, which killed 11 people. The atrocity could have provoked a wave of revenge attacks, but the Trust built itself on the words and deeds of Gordon Wilson, who lost his daughter Marie (aged 20) in the explosion. Despite his sadness at her death, Mr Wilson said in a BBC television interview:
‘I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.’
Historian Jonathan Bardon commented that ‘No words in more than 25 years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact.’
Participants are then encouraged to use this newfound capacity in their own personal and social networks. To date, through our projects more than 50 young facilitators have volunteered to work in schools in Northern Ireland to promote dialogue.
Explore is an annual international leadership programme which began in 1989. It aims to enable young people to make their own contribution towards dialogue and constructive change. Each year, 50 young people aged 16-19 take part, travelling to other countries to meet others facing difficulties or living within conflict areas. They are supported by 10 young leaders with previous experience of the programme, and select issues to discuss which are important to them in their own lives. In so doing, they develop the capacity to engage in dialogue and learn from and with others.
The initiative hopes to assist the young people in their transition to independence and maturity, and to support them take up active roles within their local and wider communities. After the programme, they are expected to reflect on their experiences and promote a culture of dialogue and learning between all social, cultural and religious traditions. This supports the Spirit of Enniskillen’s goals of promoting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
We aim to select participants from varied backgrounds, especially marginalised groups, and in each year we try to ensure the various communities of Northern Irish society are represented.
Around 1,000 young people have taken part in Explore since it began. These young people have learnt that diverse communities can live together, respect their differences, deal with conflict positively and contribute to a shared future.
One previous young participant commented: ‘Before the Spirit of Enniskillen I did not feel I could or would play any part in the future of Northern Ireland. In fact, I planned to leave as soon as possible and go to a university on the mainland – thus leaving all the problems behind me. However, I am more determined than ever to be part of Northern Ireland’s future. I can make a difference.’
Future Voices allows participants from the Explore programme to maintain their involvement with intercultural and international dialogue, and to develop their skills further.
This project was founded in 1990 to follow on from the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust’s Explore programme. It is run by, and for, young people aged 16-25, and deals with issues of interest to them on a cross-community, cross-border and an international basis. Ninety young people from a variety of backgrounds are involved, working together in an open environment and exploring their differences to build a truly inclusive society.
The aim of Future Voices is to develop leadership skills in young adults, supporting their active participation in a diverse and pluralist society. It does this by developing their ability to understand, access and have impact upon political systems. It also contributes towards a culture of understanding and respect between all communities in Northern Ireland.
‘You allow people to meet those that Northern Ireland naturally segregates you from, argue with them, and then take a step further to call them your friend.’
‘Personally, you have been life-changing to me. You have allowed me to be proud of the place where I previously had felt isolated. You have provided me with a safe haven of mutual respect, many difficult challenges and you have helped me find out who I am as a person. Thank you.’