Banada’s ‘ties of peace’ in Stormont
By Terry Reilly (c)
September 2008: Even as the world whirls from one global economic crisis to another, it is heartening to see that there continues to be life out there, and indeed real quality of life. And it is often found in small communities with their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Look around you in Ohio and I am sure you can identify examples of good people doing good work. Good people who don’t get paid for their voluntary efforts: they give because they have a sense of place and want to make their own place a better spot. For them the words ‘golden parachute’ don’t apply, for they never get too far off the ground, don’t put other peoples’ funds at greater risk, and are in no wa responsible for the toxic sub-prime mess.
Just good, decent, honest people doing their best for their families and their neighbourhoods and society as a whole.
All of which brings me to an exemplar community here in the West of Ireland, a tiny village in South Sligo that is not short on ideas, or innovation or enterprise, or love. I refer to Banada, which lies within a rough triangle of Ballina, Tubbercurry and Charlestown on the banks of the river Moy as it sweeps into County Mayo.
It was my pleasure in recent weeks to travel with a representative group of 46 people from the tiny but dynamic and innovative village in South Sligo to Stormont in Belfast to meet the Revd Dr Ian Paisley, the recently retired First Minister. That happening alone shows how the political landscape has improved in Ireland in recent times.
The Banada Development Agecy had with it a colourful tapestry of ties donated by famous people to promote peace and reconciliation and he finished project was launched by Dr Paisley who lauded what he termed the ‘ties of peace’ project. The tapestry, a compilation of ties donated by over 300 people, including international politicians, including many in the US, sports people and dignitaries, was mounted in one of the rooms in Stormont for the occasion.
A special presentation of a framed and suitably inscribed representation of the tapestry, made up of ties donated by Dr Paisley, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness, Tony Blair, John Hume and Bertie Ahern, was presented to Dr Paisley who said he would treasure it and ensure it was hung in a prominent place in his office.
Dr Paisley, in sparkling good humour, greeted the party with firm handshakes and said they were all welcome to Belfast, and he hoped they would return many times with their friends over the coming years.
Sean Owens of Banada Development Agency, thanked Dr Paisley for the opportunity to visit Stormont. “We come here as a group to exhibit the Peace Tapestry and pay tribute to you who achieved the ultimate in securing peace for Northern Ireland and the people of this island.”
Mr Owens described how the tapestry project was conceived by Mary Quinn of the Banada Association who felt a work of great significance could be made from ties of famous people, and the Agency recognised that it could also be employed to help peace and reconciliation and People in Need. Ms Quinn and Sandra Groves set about organising the Banda Ladies Patchwork Group, supported by the BDA Council. Ties flowed in from Ireland, the UK, America and the Continent of Europe when people were contacted.
Mr Owens said one of the aims of the Banada Association was to support and subscribe to the cause of peace in Northern Ireland through peace and reconciliation,. He pointed to the John Hume Peace Park that had been developed in Banada as one of the many achievements of the Association.
He said ties, like rings, were symbols of unity which bind us all together. “This tapestry embodies history and goodwill of the people. It shows how the lives of all of us are carefully knit together, while still every patch still holds and represents its individuality.”
At the Belfast launch Nick Flavin, Director of Edinburgh University, hailed the peace tapestry as a brilliant idea and requested that the work be loaned to an exhibition in the Scottish capital where it would be unveiled by Dr Paisley to raise funds for medical research.
*Since its inception in 1996, the Banada Development Agency has worked to clean and brighten local villages, establish the Hume Peace Park, restored the heritage graveyard which dates back to 1423 AD, built a village for the elderly by providing housing, meals on wheels, laundry, transport and recreation. It has also provided land and built the Banada Primary Care Centre.
** On a wet 18th November in 2009 Dr Paisley, his wife Baroness Eileen Paisley and family members accepted an invitation to visit Tubercurry and Banada where Dr Paisley, accompanied by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, who played a key role in the peace process, and former Finance Minister and EU Commissioner Ray MacSharry, unveiled a memorial stone at the primary care centre in Banada.
The occasion marked the official opening of the “Ancient Ireland” peace park, where Dr Paisley unveiled a granite plinth, across a bridge from the Peace Gardens opened by Nobel Prize winner John Hume in 1997.
The fact that a bridge joins both parks, both now associated with politicians from opposing sides of the political divide, is hugely symbolic.
“We are bridging the gap,” Mr. Sean Owens, of the Banada Development Association, declared.
*First published in Irish American News Ohio (www.ianohio.com)