Troubles victims ‘given a voice’ in emotive play

Cast members performing Waiting
Cast members performing Waiting

An emotive new play produced by a victims rights group is aiming shed light on the plight of survivors of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) was formed almost 20 years ago to support those who were physically and psychologically affected by the conflict.

The Foundation has joined forces with playwright Jonathan Burgess to produce a 25-minute play entitled ‘Waiting’, which tells the story of differing generational attitudes to the legacy of the Troubles.

The cast of eight are all members of SEFF aged 14 - 65, with a number being direct victims of terrorism.

One of the youngest members, 15-year-old Alex Kernaghan said the message of the play was about “peace and reconciliation”.

Alex’s grandfather Herbert Kernaghan, who was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was murdered by the IRA on October 15, 1979 when making his morning delivery of fruit and vegetables to a primary school in Rosslea, Co Fermanagh.

Alex said taking part in the SEFF project allowed her to meet other people whose families have experienced loss as a result of terrorism.

She added: “I decided to get involved in this production as I wanted to meet other people like me who have been affected by the Troubles.

“I really enjoyed being a part of it as it allowed me to meet new people with similar backgrounds.”

“The message of the play is really about peace and reconciliation.”

Despite its delicate subject matter, playwright Jonathan Burgess said ‘Waiting’ was an “inclusive” production and insisted: “We are not seeking to play the blame game”.

The freelance producer, writer and director, based in Londonderry, told the News Letter: “I work with the working class Protestant community to help them get their stories out.

“These are people who feel they have been left behind, that their voices are not being heard. My job was to give them a vehicle, a platform to bring their stories into the public arena.”

Mr Burgess worked closely with members of SEFF, listening to their personal experiences of the darkest days of the Troubles.

He added: “This play is an original creation, but it incorporates elements from these peoples’ real life stories.

“This was very much a collaborative effort. I wrote the script but SEFF retained editorial control over it to ensure they had ownership of the project.

“The fact that all of the cast have been affected by terrorism to some extent makes it that much more authentic.”

To date the play has been out to three venues in Co Fermanagh - Lisnaskea, Enniskillen and Lack. SEFF hopes to bring the production elsewhere in the future.

The Foundation has also received funding to produce a Troubles educational resource pack for schools, which will be produced later this year.

SEFF was established in 1999 and over the years it has steadily grown to offer a range of services to victims, including counselling, befriending, benefits and welfare advice, complementary therapy treatment options, advocacy and representation-based work and a yearly educational and social activity programme.