By Trevor Ringland
Former Irish Rugby player andCo-operation Ireland Board member Trevor Ringland and his son Michael are currently undertaking Co-operation Ireland's Entwined Histories Challenge. Here he writes about why they are doing it...
When my son was around 11 years of age a group of fathers including myself decided to bring ours sons to an Irish rugby international in Dublin. With me was also an American friend who was attending his first rugby match. At the time I was co-chair of the One Small Step Campaign promoting a shared future for the people of Northern Ireland where we work and live together constructively for the benefit of us all.
After arriving in Dublin as fathers we duly headed to the nearest pub where upon the cry came out from our sons as to what about them and “We’re going to tell mummy!”. Each was then duly dispatched with ten euros in their pockets to head into the nearby shops with questionable parental concern being shown by their fathers.
As I stood outside the pub enjoying my pint of Guinness with my friend I noticed my son, who was a bit of a character, coming down the street obviously having spent his ten euros. There he was bedecked in a green, white and gold furry hat and wrapped in the Irish tricolour. Since I came from a unionist background my American friend noted the look on my face and suggested to me, “One small step?”. I retorted that I “really must give him my version of Irish history in the near future”.
However bearing in mind it was a rugby international and the sense of inclusion and friendship that was the core ethos of the sport on this island I allowed my son to continue to wear his purchases and was slightly amused at the looks of some of my friends when talking to me later that day. However the rugby Tricolour is a very different one from that wrapped round those in the past who tried to murder my son’s grandfather!
Many years later I have decided to finally give him that education in Irish and British history and so we are both taking part in a Co-operation Ireland/ IRFU Charitable Trust Entwined Histories cycle involving cycling from Belfast to Dublin with its cross border element, then walking around the 1916 Easter Uprising sites followed by a flight to Northern France and Belgium to visit the Somme and other battlefield sites from the First World War. It will be a reflective time in which we will take in the many different perspectives on the various conflicts but each of which are an example of how not to do relationships whether it be on this island or across the continent of Europe and beyond.
Irish rugby has always shown a different way. One of inclusion and friendship and the Charitable Trust which is in the interest of those young rugby players who sustained serious injury is an example of caring for those unfortunate to be injured. Co-operation Ireland works to prevent conflict from occurring and to undo the damage caused when it does.
If you wish to support those taking part please send any donations to Co-operation Ireland, 5N Weaver’s Court Business Park, Linfield Road, Belfast BT12 5GH or the IRFU Charitable Trust, 10-12 Lansdowne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. If you wish to donate online, you can do so at https://www.justgiving.com/Michael-Ringland. All costs of taking part have been covered by me so all monies will go to the Charities.