South Armagh reconciliation trust celebrates forty years of work
A reception has been held in a Crossmaglen GAA club for a south Armagh man and wife team who have worked for reconciliation in the area for 40 years.
Saturday night saw a commemoration in Crossmaglen Rangers’ hall for Ian and Pauline Bothwell and volunteers from Darkley-based Crossfire Trust.
Deputy Chair of Newry Mourne and Down District Council, SDLP Councillor Terry Andrews, said over 100 people attended the event.
“The trust was set up with the aim of offering a listening ear, a warm bed and a cooked meal and supports those who are homeless, suffer from addiction, bereavement or mental health issues,” he said.
“It has had a significant impact on cross community relations in the area and has helped foster links between Ireland, England and the USA.”
Trust director Ian Bothwell said he would sum up the 40 years as “an adventure with fears, thrills, disappointments and achievements”.
Originally from the border area of Tynan, he had just finished training as a missionary in England in 1981 and intended to go overseas until he heard BBC broadcaster David Dunseith highlighting the situation in Crossmaglen.
“I saw it was a very dangerous isolated place and the feelings of fear overwhelmed me,” he said. “But later on the mothers in Crossmaglen decided to trust me with their children on our summer programme. Now there are three generations of mothers attending the same programme.”
He acknowledges the area had a fearsome reputation during the Troubles. “But the Christian response is to love your neighbour and we are sharing a gospel of peace. I am aware of ex-soldiers and their wives who have come back and have been facilitated and shown around.”
His aim for the future is to have a base in Crossmaglen “with an old Irish kitchen where the kettle is always on”.