Jack's Moment of Courage
It can be difficult at times to convey the impact of the work we are involved in on the young people we work with. So it is lovely when a story offers itself that conveys personal transformation and the impact of young people’s ideas on others.
Jack(17) is a student at Loreto Community College in Milford, Donegal. He is a participant in a cross-border project (supported by the International Fund for Ireland) 300between his school, Portadown College and their local communities.
At the end of March the 40 students who have been working together and building relationships came together for their first residential in the beautiful setting of the Friends Forever International centre in Annalong. As part of the preparations students in the two schools had been working together to organise entertainment for both evenings after their group work sessions. Jack wrote a poem. He titled it ‘A Future That Uplifts’.
Jack is shy. He was too nervous to read the poem himself, so one of his classmates read it for him. The groups loved it. Jack was chuffed!
On the 18th April Politics in Action was involved in the incredible events at Queens University Belfast to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. In an extraordinary event 230 young people from across Northern Ireland and Donegal came together to meet significant figures from the Peace Process and to discuss the issues that are important to them.
Jack was pleased when we asked him if we could read his poem at the end of the event. He was pleased again, but his courage was growing.
As signatories including Sheree Blair, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern and Steve Baker came to meet our groups and hear their ideas and aspirations, Jack started to share his story.
Joe Kennedy III - US President Biden’s special envoy to Northern Ireland came in to visit. Jack asked if he could read his poem to him. Joe listened attentively. Can I take a copy asked Mr Kennedy? Sure said Joe - would you sign my copy? Joe Kennedy obliged.
Just as we were starting the afternoon session where Jack’s poem would be the final piece, he told his teacher that he would like to read it himself in front of a packed auditorium of his peers, their teachers and other supporters of our work. He did a terrific job.
Joe Kennedy III spoke on the final day of the Agreement 25 events at Queen’s University telling stories of his past 10 days in Northern Ireland. At the end of his speech, he talked about Jack, and read the last few lines of his poem. How’s that for a short term outcome?
A Future That Uplifts
In the land of Northern Ireland
A conflict that was quite dire
Protestants and Catholics
Couldn't seem to inspire
But then one fateful Good Friday
A pact was made so fair
A peace agreement that would end
The violence and the scare
Politicians got together
And agreed on a few things
Power-sharing, human rights
And paramilitary disarming
The people of Northern Ireland
Were overjoyed to see
A future filled with harmony
A brighter destiny
But some still argue 'till this day
If the agreement's truly sound
Is it the beginning of a new era
Or just a band-aid that's bound?
Regardless of the criticisms
We can all agree
That the Good Friday Agreement
Was a step towards harmony
So, let's raise a pint of Guinness
To the Irish and the Brits
Who put aside their differences
For a future that uplifts
Jack McBride, Loreto Milford, Donegal
23 March 2023