Jack's Moment of Courage

Paul Smyth
Paul Smyth
April 15, 2024
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?

His Poem:

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

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