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Celts, Romans and Irish Monks

The Troubles refers to the three-decade conflict in northern Ireland between nationalists and unionists (1968-1998). This violent period of sectarian strife progressed from protest to armed revolt and had all the appearances of civil war. More than 3,500 people died in this conflict, which escalated to include assassinations, bombings, and other acts of terrorism.

We will explore not only the historical record but also the artistic responses. Together these will serve as a starting point from which participants can continue their own deeper explorations.

We will also discuss parallels between Ireland's Troubles and the American experience. Events include the American Civil War, in which many Irish participated; public bombings as experienced in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 and Oklahoma City in 1995; and the American Civil Rights Movement, which emphasized nonviolence and was an early influence on the movement in Ireland.

Turning our attention to the present, we will question why the United States, which played a crucial role in negotiating the peace process in Ireland, has yet to fully apply the lessons learned about reconciliation within our own borders. And we will project a pathway forward for a united Ireland, once again at a crucial historical moment involving renewed talks of Irish reunification, spurred on by Brexit and supported by both of Ireland's main political parties. How might a united republic dissolve historic divisions and move forward together in this new landscape?

Susan Facknitz had the pleasure of teaching Creative Writing and American and Irish Literature at JMU for 32 years. She led Study Abroad trips to Ireland and spent many months traveling the Irish countryside. Now retired, she leads a writers' group at Blue Ridge Community College and works at the Harrisonburg Visitor Center.

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