Former decommissioning chief De Chastelain to speak at Carlingford festival

Northern Ireland peace broker General John De Chastelain is the special guest at this year's Thomas D'Arcy McGee Summer School.
Gareth McKeown

THE Canadian general who oversaw the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons in Northern Ireland is the special guest at this year's Thomas D'Arcy McGee Summer School.

General John De Chastelain will speak at the annual event in Carlingford, Co Louth, which begins today and runs until Wednesday.

The general was the former chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and one of the key players in the confidence-building process that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. His work led to the the destruction of IRA, UVF, UDA, INLA and Official IRA weapons.

Now in its sixth year the summer school, celebrates the life of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, whose inspirational speeches played a key role in the establishment of the Canadian confederation in 1867. He was also an implacable opponent of Irish Fenianism.

David Wilson, biographer of two volumes on Carlingford-born politician, poet and patriot said:

“The 2017 D'Arcy McGee Summer School explores the hidden connections between constitutional change in Canada and revolutionary movements in Ireland, and their significance for both countries."

Among the highlights of the summer school is the play 'The Trial of the Orange Order'. Staged in a real-life courthouse, the audience play the role of the jury and vote on whether the organisation is guilty of treason against Ireland and Britain.

Anthony Russell (66) from Newry, the playwright behind the drama, said the play hopes to "tease out the truth in the arguments".

"Was there treason involved against the people of Ireland in creating a separate state? All the arguments for and against are included," he said.

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