A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
September 8, 2005 Volume 36 / Number 1


Students Film Documentary in Northern Ireland

Fifteen students from Chico State travelled to Belfast this summer to investigate the causes of conflict and prospects for peace. They were there on July 28, when the Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced that their armed campaign was over.

Ron Hirschbein, director of the Peace Institute at CSU, Chico, accompanied the students. He said that his perception from talking to people in the street and others in the Irish Studies Program at Queen's University, was that there was a sense of cautious pessimism. “No bells pealed after the IRA announcement,” he said.

The Chico students interviewed and filmed people on the street and principal actors in the conflict between Catholic separatists and Protestant loyalists to Britain. They will produce a film documenting the search for peace.

CSU, Chico, alumnus Kelly Candaele, who is a journalist, filmmaker, and expert on Northern Ireland, supervised the documentary, and graduate student Cathy Growdon coordinated the project.

The film will be shown in institutions of higher education in California. Prior to leaving the United States, several students interviewed former Senator George Mitchell, the architect of the Good Friday Agreement that substantially reduced violence in Northern Ireland.

In order to understand the background of the conflict, the students interviewed loyalists such as Member of Parliament David Ervine, who wish Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom, and nationalists such as Gerry Adams, who strive for a united Ireland. Ordinary citizens were interviewed in Protestant loyalist and Catholic separatist areas. The filming was complemented by a three-week course on Irish culture and politics at Queen's University.

During a trip to Dublin, students interviewed former Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, who moved the peacemaking process forward during his tenure in office. In Derry, interviews were conducted with Nobel Laureate John Hume (who was awarded both the Martin Luther King and Gandhi peace prizes for his efforts to reconcile Protestant and Catholic factions).

“We were struck by the warmth and hospitality of these officials, who spent many hours enduring intense questioning and playful conversation with our students and group leaders,” said Hirschbein. “We were particularly pleased that both Reynolds and Hume wish to visit Chico in order to share their experience in peacemaking with the campus and larger community. Reynolds’s campaign slogan still resonates: ‘Who’s afraid of peace?’ ”