Pupils off to Messines

PUPILS from three local schools are set to learn how a World War I battle can set an example to divided modern communities.

Messines, Belgium is the home of the International School for Peace. Opened in 2000 it aims to educate its visitors in the shared history of World War One.

On February 4, 22 lucky students and three teachers from Lisneal, Oakgrove and St Cecilia's college will travel to Messines to learn more about the sacrifices of the 16th Irish Division and the 36th Ulster Division.

Due to the events unfolding in Ireland at the time and the continuous unrest since the end of WW1 the sacrifices these soldiers made had unfortunately gone unrecognised.

Many people north of the border do not realise that the 36th Ulster Division shed blood with the 16th Irish Division whilst many people in the Republic do not know that northern Nationalists fought on the battlefields of WW1 at all.

The students are all in year 13 and are looking forward to their trip. Whilst in Messines they will visit the memorials and graves of those who fought there and learn more about the history surrounding the area.

Oakgrove

Lisa McCarter from Oakgrove, Jill Thompson from Lisneal and Aibhilin Nifhaolain from St Cecilia's explained that they "knew nothing" of the history of Messines before they began preparation for their trip. Jill said: "We are being taught the basic background information now and hope to learn a lot more when we get there."

Set up by Glen Barr, the International School for Peace describes itself as a neutral facility and commits itself to educating all its visitors in Conflict Resolution and Mediation Skills. The 22 cross community students will be encouraged in cultural developments which support Peace Developments in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"We are all really excited about going, it's getting close now and we cannot wait," says Lisa. The three girls were very open about their lack of knowledge of the history of the two divisions and are anxious to learn all they can.

Many people are unaware of that history of Nationalists and Unionists fighting, and dying, side by side. Many people are unaware that whilst in the wake of the Easter Rising 1916 Nationalists and Unionists were consumed with a struggle for power, but that in June 1917 both religious communities were fighting alongside each other in the battle of Messines Ridge.

The School highlights this battle as a foundation for further cross community tolerance and peace on both sides of the border. The ambassadors from the three participating schools hope to gain as much information as they can from their visit.

The School hopes to enlighten as many visitors as possible to how both divisions fought together and therefore the heroism of both can be celebrated in the way they deserve.

During their visit the students will learn that the International School for Peace hopes to bring our shared history to light, and show that Catholics and Protestants alike are not aware of the bravery and camaraderie of the young men who laid down their prejudices in order to fight together.