Northern Ireland news

Troubles day of reflection takes place

Belfast held a day of reflection to remember victims of the Troubles
Matt Fox

A 'DAY of Reflection' is taking place in Belfast to acknowledge “the deep hurt and pain” caused by the Troubles.

Belfast City Hall will be illuminated in yellow to mark the event, which was being held on the longest day of the year.

More than 3,500 people died and thousands more were injured during 30 years of violence, much of it in Belfast.

A cross-community service of prayer, music, reflection and liturgy is taking place at St Anne's Cathedral in the city in an effort to offer a common space for people to remember.

Church leaders from both sides of the community led a service at St. Anne’s Cathedral which was attended by victims and survivors.

Entitled ‘Courage to Lament’, Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin and Presbyterian moderator Rev Dr David Bruce were joined by several peace-building groups with readings from those affected by the conflict.

A moment of silence was taken at midday when the sun’s shadows were at their weakest.

Music was provided by folk act Na Leanaí.

Attendees were invited to come forward and take a small patch of cloth, symbolising the "healing of self, of others and of society as a whole".

The Rev Dr Alex Wimberly, leader of peace-building organisation Corrymeela, which helped host the service, said the event was an acknowledgment of what has been broken in communities.

He said it provided a space to acknowledge the deep hurt and pain felt by many and a challenge to work courageously for a more just future.

At city hall poetry and prose readings were being given throughout the day, and a "thought tree" has been in place for people to add a leaf with a personal message to share their hopes for the future.

Party group leaders on Belfast City Council said: "As a Council, we recognise that many people here are still living with the legacy of the past, and there has been deep hurt and pain caused to many as a result of the conflict here.

"We acknowledge that many people throughout the city suffered deeply as a result of the conflict.

"As civic leaders, we hope that by hosting this annual event and providing a quiet, safe space, it will give people an opportunity to reflect and remember in a way which is personal to them."

A short film by local organisation Healing Through Remembering was also being screened throughout the day.

The group said the Day of Reflection has been welcomed by a wide range of groups and individuals, including Sir Kenneth Branagh, who directed the Oscar-winning film Belfast - partly based on his own experiences as a boy growing up in the city during the Troubles.

Healing Through Remembering said that in the search for a possible date, it became apparent that there is no single date in the calendar year which is not the anniversary of the death of at least one person in relation to the conflict.

June 21 was also seen as being a day that was both forward-looking and backward-looking, representing a pause in the cycle of nature and offering a moment to reflect.

Others involved in organising the event were Wave Trauma Centre, Belfast Cathedral, church leaders and peacebuilders.

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