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  • Promoting tolerance, understanding, and friendship
  • between Catholic & Protestant teenagers from Northern Ireland

News

The North Shore Ulster Project Mission

The North Shore Ulster Project is dedicated to promoting tolerance, understanding, and friendship between Catholic and Protestant teenagers from Northern Ireland (Ulster) through a four week stay in the Evanston community. Working together with Protestant churches, St. Joan of Arc parishioners recruit hosts, organize the summer project, and fundraise during the year.

Why an Ulster Project?

Ireland is a country, separated by culture, politics, and religion, that has been at war with itself for eight centuries. Since 1921, there have been two political units:

The REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: an independent nation, predominantly native Irish and Catholic, with a booming economy now, and mostly peaceful.

NORTHERN IRELAND: six counties of the province of Ulster, located in the northeast corner of the island, and still a part of the United Kingdom. It is here that the polarization of the two factions comes most sharply into focus in the form of politically directed violence, tension, and self-isolation by cultural and religious communities.

Catholic vs. Protestant

The terms "Catholic" and "Protestant," used in the context of Northern Ireland, designate sides of a political conflict telescoped into religious terms rather than doctrinal controversy within the Christian faith.

CATHOLIC there designates one who is of the indigenous Irish population. CATHOLIC refers to a member of a large minority once discriminated against in housing, employment, and opportunity. CATHOLIC means wishing to preserve the ancient Irish heritage and to unite Ireland outside the United Kingdom.

PROTESTANT refers to those who, though their families may have lived in Ireland for centuries, are labeled foreigners, loyal to their British roots. PROTESTANT refers to a member of the former ruling class, fearful of what the loss of their majority might mean. PROTESTANT means those who seek to preserve their ethos by keeping Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom.

Exploitation of old animosities by militant radicals has so complicated the socio-political scene that there was little hope of any just solution until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The "Catholic/Protestant" line is still such a barrier that "cross community" contacts are quite limited. Despite the hopes raised by the 1998 agreement, there is no real political agreement, and tensions remain high. Violence is still regarded as a political tool by extremists on both sides. Acceptance of diversity and real peace have yet to come to Northern Ireland. The power-sharing government which came out of the 1998 agreement barely continues now, and it could fail at any time.

The teens who come from Northern Ireland as a part of the Ulster Project are still from sub-communities where isolation and separation from "the others" is normal. In general. teenagers still do not make friends with those of a differing Christian tradition, except through such cross-community programs as the Ulster Project.

Clearly, a need exists for the fostering of tolerance, understanding, and friendship between these groups.

It is from this need the Ulster Project was formed.

The Founding of the Ulster Project

Following an extended pastoral exchange with a clergyman in Manchester, Connecticut, Father Kerry Waterstone, a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest, received a request from two congregations in that city asking him to formulate a plan in an effort to help ease the tensions in Northern Ireland. After the experience of his own family in America, Canon Waterstone felt that the attitudes of teens from Northern Ireland might be changed. If they could see and experience the way Americans have learned to live together in their “melting pot” society, they might influence the future in Northern Ireland.

After obtaining approval from church leaders, Canon Waterstone traveled into Northern Ireland to secure the cooperation of clergy willing to help in the implementation of his plan. Forming the original guidelines for the Project, he focused on the prejudices and stereotypes, which are the root cause of the bitter strife labeled "Catholic/Protestant". Nationally, the Project began in the United States in 1975. By 2003, Ulster Project International will have grown to 28 active American host communities paired with 8 Northern Ireland communities. Since 1975, over 6100 teens from Northern Ireland have participated in the various Ulster Project programs.