Melbourne Catholic

42 [ ] Pádraig Ó Tuama LOVER OF LANGUAGE, POETRY AND PEACE Pádraig Ó Tuama is an Irish poet, theologian and peacemaker. To spend time with him, to hear him speak or to read his words, is to enter a world of intersecting language, poetry, story-telling, history and theology. And it is to recognise the importance of each of these in his work of building peace and restoring hope within a deeply fractured world. For the past five years he has been the leader of the Corrymeela Community in Belfast, which is recognised as Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation. Army chaplain Ray Davey established it in 1965 at a time when the troubles in Ireland had not yet begun but were brewing. ‘The “troubles” is the word used particularly from 1968 to 1998 to mark that period of violence in Northern Ireland,’ says Pádraig. ‘Nearly 3600 people were murdered, 80,000 people were injured, and 500,000 people were affected directly by bereavement or by being associated with somebody who was injured. In a population of 1.5 million, this means one out of every three was linked in a certain sense. ‘And it didn’t end with the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998. The peace agreement was the beginning of peace, not the achievement of peace. Be very aware of that.’ Pádraig spent 11 years working at Corrymeela before becoming its leader. He had initially been invited to be poet-in-residence for some new groups that were beginning. He had been used to helping people discuss theological or cultural differences, but he was now being called to help groups ‘tell stories of grief and stories of trouble, stories of accusation and stories of hope.’ He tells the story of being with a group of men around the table a few years ago in Belfast. There was a young man well under 30, along with an older man who had played a significant role in the peace negotiations. When the young man mentioned something about the troubles, the older man said nonchalantly to this young man, ‘You’re too young to know about the Troubles.’ Pádraig explains the rest of the story by way of a poem titled ‘Not yet’: ‘You’re too young to know about the Troubles,’ the peace man said. And the young man said: [ Fiona Basile ]