The twenty year old peace-process that ended decades of violence is under new pressure. The critical question is what happens to the border and relations with the rest of Ireland.
Until now EU membership had kept both sides of the sectarian divide and Irish border happy. As Brexit’s outlines become clearer we meet with politicians, community leaders, former paramilitaries and ordinary people – from both loyalist and nationalist communities. We explore the history of the troubles and ask what’s next for Northern Ireland?
|DATES||Saturday, 3rd August – Saturday, 10th August 2019|
Single supplement: £500.00
Meeting politicians, community leaders, former paramilitaries and ordinary people – from both loyalist and nationalist communities – we ask what’s next for Northern Ireland? The UK leaving the EU poses important questions for the province – as post Brexit it becomes the only part of the UK to share a land border with the EU, plus the Tory coalition with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) negotiated after the UK’s June 2017 election could place significant strain on the province’s delicate balances of power.
Single supplement: £500.00
As with all of our expert-led tours, we ensure that our groups remain small and intimate, and will not exceed 14 people.
As with all of our tours the itinerary focuses on current affairs, and owing to the dynamic nature of politics means that local conditions may lead us adjust the final schedule.
The Road to Peace
We trace the steps that led to the historic Good Friday Agreement. What now for Northern Ireland as the ripples of Brexit can also be felt from across the Irish Sea?
Northern Ireland has experienced a period of significant stability, almost two decades on from the end of “the troubles”. Once irreconcilable foes are all represented at Stormont, the region’s parliament, and the chance of a return to violence is remote. But significant differences between the province’s two main communities remain.
At meetings with politicians, community leaders, former paramilitaries and ordinary people we ask what’s next for Northern Ireland? The UK’s uncertain political future will also have an impact. The province becomes the only part of the UK to share a land border with the EU after Brexit, And the Conservative coalition with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) negotiated after the UK’s June 2017 election could strain on the delicate balance of power.
The tour was designed by Seamus Kelters, a BBC journalist who sadly passed away last year. His replacement will be announced soon.
Saturday, 3rd August: Derry/Londonderry
Sunday, 4th August: Stroke City
Monday, 5th August: Causeway and Belfast
Tuesday, 6th August: Belfast Tour and The Troubles Legacy
Wednesday, 7th August: The Settlement and Challenge from Brexit
Thursday, 8th August: Prisoners, Parades and Continued Divisions
Friday, 9th August: Out of Belfast
Saturday, 10th August
All of your accommodation and meals with water are included, as well as local transport (except during your free time).
Flights are not included in the price and need to be arranged by customers themselves or with an agent.
Following the news
Like all our tours the itinerary is focused on current affairs. Events on the ground may change and the final schedule may be adjusted accordingly.
This tour starts in Londonderry/ Derry and ends in Belfast.
As on all our expert-led tours the groups are deliberately small and will not exceed 14 people. Frequently we travel with 10-12 people. Limited spaces are available.
UK passport holders do not need a visa. Other passport holders may require a visa. It is always good to check with the embassy in your country for latest advice regarding visa requirements.
The tour is mid-summer. Days can be hot and evenings cooler. Some rain is to be expected.
Sunblock and rain gear are essential.
What to Wear
Dress is generally relaxed and casual. We suggest taking layers as the weather is different in the various regions. Rain showers are not uncommon too so please ensure you pack a rain jacket. Most important is to have comfortable shoes for walking.
Men: Will need a jacket and tie for some of the meetings.
Women: You will need smarter dress for one or two meetings.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publishes regularly updated travel information on its website www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo which you are recommended to consult before booking and in good time before departure. Where it considers it appropriate to do so, the FCO may advise against all travel or all but essential travel to particular countries or parts of particular countries. Similarly, the FCO may withdraw any such previously given advice. Where the FCO issues such advice, we may as a result cancel your tour or make changes so as to avoid the area concerned (see clause 10). Alternatively, we may ask you to sign a form confirming you wish to proceed with the tour notwithstanding the FCO advice. It is in the nature of the itineraries we offer that the FCO may have issued such advice in relation to the country or parts of the country we are intending to visit prior to confirmation of your booking. In this case, you will be asked to sign the above form before we confirm your booking.
Advice on health requirements may be obtained from your GP, or alternatively from the Department of Health leaflet Advice on Health for Travelers, or the Department of Health in the UK. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit http://www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk/destinations.aspx
We suggest you visit your own doctor or local travel clinic who will have the most up-to-date travel advice, and be able to recommend any vaccinations prior to travel based on your medical history.
Great British Pounds.
Plugs are 3 pin UK.
Wifi is available in all hotels as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.
William Graham is a political journalist based in Rostrevor, Northern Ireland and a member of Arts a Wonder Collective committee. He is a former political correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph and Irish News and was a special correspondent for the LA Times (in Ireland) and for the London Times.
Currently he devotes most of his time to voluntary community work and is chairman of Light 2000 community group which relates to environment issues; and is a member of Kilbroney Community Association. He occasionally writes for daily newspapers on the ongoing political situation in the north of Ireland.
Graham entered journalism in 1968 and covered the early civil rights movement, the troubles, and all negotiations leading up to the Good Friday agreement as well as the establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland. He covered the political talks in Belfast, London, Dublin, Brussels, and Washington.
In 2003 Graham was the only UK or Irish journalist selected to take part in a United States State Department study programme on foreign affairs which related to the middle East, Northern Ireland and other issues and included a private meeting with Henry Kissinger.
Graham’s reporting is mentioned in a book by George J. Mitchell entitled `Making Peace.’ Mitchell was President Clinton’s special envoy to NI and chaired the all party talks at Stormont which led to the 1998 Good Friday agreement.
In a personal letter to Graham, Senator Mitchell praised his “fairmindedness” when reporting on “a complicated story” and “in laying the groundwork for voters to make an informed choice.”
Over the past three decades Graham has been involved not only in reporting political developments but also has engaged in behind the scenes private discussions on these topics with British, Irish and American diplomats and politicians.
He has been interviewed by radio and television on the Northern Ireland situation including BBC, UTV and NPR America.
Graham has over the past few years been involved in a number of initiatives including bringing together Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders from NI, the Republic of Ireland, and England for
dialogue and sharing thoughts.
He also shaped and founded the Rostrevor Literary Festival now in its fourth year which brought together former hostages in Lebanon to share their experiences. The Festival has also included listening to refugees from many parts of the world including Rwanda.
The tour was designed by Seamus Kelters, a BBC journalist who died last year.
Seamus Kelters started as a senior reporter for the Irish News more than 20 years ago specialising in security, fair employment and the case of the Birmingham Six. Working for BBC Northern Ireland for almost two decades, he produced for its investigative strand and political unit and, as well as the evening news programme. His programmes on the IRA’s ‘stand down’ order and the Omagh trial verdict won separate Irish Film and Television Awards.
As a co-author of Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, in 2001 he was awarded the Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for the promotion of peace and reconciliation in Ireland. He addressed both the European and International Societies for Traumatic Stress Studies and a conference at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard on the book.
Having been a Dart Fellow in 2002 and Senior Fellow in 2003, he served on the organisation’s executive committee. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma aims to educate and support journalists who encounter trauma in the course of their work. Kelters helped design workshops for journalists in Ireland and post-Katrina New Orleans.
Seamus is survived by his wife and two sons.
“I learned a lot – from the places we visited, from the fascinating group of people we met – and, not least, from Seamus. I couldn’t have asked for a more varied programme in a whirlwind tour. I now need some time to digest what I have heard and seen, and will do so in the coming weeks.
Everyone promised on the programme showed up; and everyone, without exception, was fascinating. Some of what I heard reinforced my thinking, some of what I heard challenged my beliefs, and some things were completely new or left field.”
Brexit & Northern Ireland
The peace process that saw an end to The Troubles is over two decades old, but faces a new threat in the wake of the result of the British referendum to leave the European Union. That sectarian conflict, fought between state security forces, Irish republican paramilitaries and Ulster loyalist paramilitaries, killed over 3500 people including 1800 civilians, and injured nearly 50,000. The violence looked to be relegated to the past following the Good Friday Agreement, which ushered in a cessation of hostilities and political representation for combatants. However, it now looks in doubt with one of the most contentious issues – the Northern Irish border with the Republic of Ireland – uncertain following the Brexit vote.
As The Economist ominously wrote in the early stages of Brexit negotiations, “British voters forgot that the peace deal depended on both sides [UK and Republic of Ireland] being part of the European Union”.
The border, as per European Union policy, had been open, allowing citizens of either country to work and move freely across it. Now, with uncertainty over the border’s future abounding, many worry about how it will affect their lives and broader peace and stability in the region.
In Londonderry – or Derry as it is known to Catholics (who make up 75% of its population – some worry that a botched divorce from the European Union could flare up sectarian tensions that exist today, though have not yet manifested themselves in violence. EU policies allowed Northern Irish republicans to feel connected to their southern neighbours. Meanwhile, unionists felt they were a part of the United Kingdon. A hard border would draw a literal line between the two countries, with Sinn Fein, the republican political party formed from the ashes of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary group, have indicated they would seek an island-wide vote to unify in such an event. Meanwhile, the chief constable of the Northern Irish police force warned that checkpoints on a hard border would be considered legitimate targets by insurgent armed groups.
Brexit could also greatly disrupt trade between Ireland and the UK, with nearly 3400 Irish exporting businesses trading exclusively with the UK in 2016, according to official statistics. Brexit could greatly expose Irish business, as free trade between Ireland, which will remain in the EU, and the UK is a non-certainty. As a result of the European single market, cross border business had boomed in the 1990s and 2000s.
Michael Cox, a leading academic on Northern Ireland, argues that Brexit has also exposed the myth that “ the British government is some kind of fair minded referee mediating between the different sides in the North,” adding that any stance as such is undercut by the Conservative government’s choice of coalition partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has historical links to unionist paramilitary groups during the conflict. Some unionists remain skeptical of the Good Friday Agreement, and Brexit could provide a way to undermine it.
It will also complicate the relationship between Westminster and Dublin, which had traditionally been centred on a Europe-friendly approach. If the two jostling parties in Belfast (Sinn Fein and the DUP) are able to manoeuvre a wedge between the two, it cannot bode well for stability in the region.