It’ll be grand [ɪtl biː grænd]: an Irish expression meaning that, although everything may be a mess at the moment, everything will work out in the end.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve almost been on the Island of Ireland for a month and two weeks… I’m almost at the half way mark of my field work. Time has literally flown by as I’m trying to grapple with my research question and make the most of my experience.
But perhaps I should back up a bit first, it’s occurred to me that I haven’t written about the changes in my research question since I started this blog in January. When I started my Masters, I wanted to research anti-immigration/anti-refugee sentiments in the United States. Now, 6 months later, I’m researching cultural identities in Northern Ireland and the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation as an actor in the reconciliation process. It may sound radically different, but fundamentally I believe that both research questions target a specific social phenomenon: a negative “othering” based on religion, ethnicity, and political beliefs, which lead to discrimination and violence.
I’m currently staying at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in the Wicklow Mountains. The buildings were originally built by the British Army in the early 1800s to capture Michael Dwyer and his band of rebels. After his capture during the Irish famine, Glencree was turned into a boy’s reformatory for sick and itinerant boys. In 1945, the building was yet again transformed as a temporary orphanage for Operation Shamrock when German children who lost their families during the Second World War were adopted by Irish families. Finally, in 1972, Una O’Higgins O’Malley opened the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation just as the conflict in Northern Ireland, known as The Troubles, was escalating. Ever since, Glencree has been a neutral space for feuding social groups to have a respectful and constructive dialogue. Although the Centre originally concentrated on political dialogue and track two diplomacy between Catholic/Nationalist/Republicans and Protestant/Unionist/Loyalists, the Centre has also welcomed politicians, combatants and peacemakers from all over the world.
Living in a place with so much history and culture is amazing! There dozens of photos and paintings in the Bridge Building (living quarters/dorm rooms where I’m sleeping) that make the centre feel truly international. There are even paintings from Canada in the hallways! That’s right! A large donation by the Canadian embassy was made to Glencree, so there are lots of Group of Seven Paintings in the building. It really feels like a small world.
The staff and community here are also lovely. I find that, on this Island, everyone is overwhelmingly friendly. They can’t be kind enough, can’t be friendly enough, can’t give you enough of their time or advice or travel tips. If there is one reason above all to love Ireland, it has to be the people. It’s ironic that I’m here on this island studying conflict because, as a few people have mentioned to me already “We’re nice to strangers, we just can’t get along with each other.”
Ireland is truly amazing! This island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to! Sometimes, I go for a walk and take hundreds of photos! I’m amazed that these mountains and this valley are my backyard. I followed a hiking map to Lower Lough Bray on the second day, and I had no idea what to expect but I thought I stumbled into paradise! The weather too has been amazing. We, as has most of the world, have been experiencing an unprecedented heat wave. Almost 3 weeks of sunshine! That’s just unheard of in Ireland! Every morning I was afraid to open my blinds for fear of grey skies, but luckily it lasted ages!
Unfortunately, my research hasn’t been going as well as the weather. It’s actually been a little messy, if I’m honest. 3 months for fieldwork seems incredibly short now that I’m here. I feel like there’s no way for me to get all of the information that I need. Being based in Glencree also has it’s challenges because Northern Ireland is an hour and a half away, and two hours to Belfast. I’ve made a couple trips so far and hope to make a few more… and I’m constantly wondering if I’m spending too much time in one place and not enough in another, or vice versa. I’m reassured by my supervisors that even this messiness is a result, and that I should embrace it as part of the reality of my fieldwork, but those who know me best know that I’m not one for messiness. I like to have things neat and tidy. Well organized, and well planned. Haha, that’s a difficult lesson to learn. But, just like the saying says, everything will be grand. I just need to have a little faith.
Until next time,
P.S. A few more photos from my travels.