Co-operation Ireland believe that it is important to give our young people an opportunity to meet, learn about the traditions and cultures of other young people living on the island of Ireland if we are to create a more peaceful respectful stable society. In Northern Ireland in particular many children are separated from their peers at a very young age, as early as 4 years. Often they go through their formative years without having the opportunity to meet someone their own age who is from a different religion or cultural background. Over the years Co-operation Ireland has developed numerous programmes based around education and the education system, all of which aim to improve relations between our young people and communities. Co-operation Ireland runs a number of projects that are specifically for young people in education.

Entwined Histories - Part 5, The War

In November 2014, we were delighted to celebrate the latest installment of our Entwined Histories project series – EH5, The War – with 80 young people from schools in NI and ROI.  Ourentwined history theme is an excellent tool to, not only understand present day tensions, but to uncover the elements and myths of history that have dominated notions of "identity".  Using the backdrop of the beginning of the First World War, the 2014 programme has focused on the recruitment of young men from across Ireland in 1914.  The project has examined their motivations and reasons for enlisting, as well as an in depth exploration of the role of propaganda, both in Ireland and abroad.  The process of interactive learning and discovery has helped participants see that historical narratives are neither fixed nor single but diverse and open to influence and change.

Over the course of the 6 week project, the young people were involved in a series of educational workshops, field visits and a very busy residential.  We were very fortunate to be able to bring the history to life with a number of existing exhibitions including: the Answer the Call: First World War Postersexhibition at the Ulster Museum; the Somme Heritage Centre; the Hidden Histories of the First World War tour at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; and excerpts from Medal in the Drawer performed by our very own QUB Drama students.

Carlingford was the venue for our residential where the young people worked (very hard!) in 4 mixed groups.  The aim was to facilitate the groups to present their learning and understanding of the issues explored throughout the project through the use of multimedia.  The groups all participated in film, audio, design and drama workshops and they showcased their work via live drama performances and the screening of media edits.

Thank you to all our students who worked with such commitment and energy throughout the project, from Holy Child Community School, Ashfield Girls’ High School, Assumption Grammar School, The Wallace High School, St Patrick’s College Bearnageeha and Lagan College.  The project is greatly enriched by the dedication and enthusiasm of school staff and management, so thank you to them also!

Co-operation Ireland values partnership working and collaboration with like-minded organisations across sectors.  Our collaborations during Entwined Histories 5 have allowed us to provide a dynamic learning environment for our young people, working alongside Nerve Centre, NMNI, Somme Heritage Centre and the Living Legacies Research Centre, based at QUB.  We were particularly excited to have had on board our facilitation team, 5 creative and very enthusiastic QUB drama students – Lloyd, Stella, David, Matty and Brian, who have expertly mentored our groups throughout the process.  A special thanks to Jonathan Evershed who has devised and led this project to success.

Finally, thank you to our Entwined Histories funder, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, without whom this important work would not be possible.

Entwined Histories – Part 4, Shaping Our Identity

‘Shaping Our Identity’ is a programme for young adults (aged 18-30) which examined the complex issue of Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist (PUL) identity through a photographic lens. An interactive educational programme provided the framing for participants’ photographic projects through critically examining key episodes during the ‘decade of centenaries’, including the Home Rule Bill and the Ulster Covenant, the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising. With support from Belfast Exposed, participants gained the key skills to represent their culture and identity through the medium of photography.

This project aimed to provide people from the PUL community with an opportunity to express their identity positively. It sought to challenge both misperceptions and prejudice within PUL historical narratives and the negative perception of PUL culture and identity associated with trouble around the issues of flags and parades. Participants began to engage critically with their history, and to find new and creative ways to express themselves and their identity with pride and confidence. The project included 6 workshops and one field visit to Dublin.  Each workshop will include a guest speaker and will be followed by a field trip where participants will be able to explore that week’s theme in their photography. A final exhibition event was held to showcase the participants' work at Belfast Exposed, followed by an exhibition with the Turas Irish Language programme at Skainos.

Entwined Histories - Part 3, The Dublin Lockout

In the third Entwined Histories Series, the theme was around the labour relations in 1913 Ireland, specifically focusing on the events leading up to and resulting from the Dublin Lockout. The project looked at the working conditions of men, women and children at this time as well as the formation of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, the Irish Labour party and the Workers Union of Ireland.

The project provided an opportunity for young people to explore the history of the Dublin Docks Lockout at grass roots level and on a cross community basis, with the intention of creating an opportunity for dialogue and exchange between communities, deepening mutual understanding, broadening perspectives and strengthening relationships. 

Throughout the project, Co-operation Ireland worked in conjunction with Music Theatre for Youth to facilitate the young people in preparing a musical theatre piece that showcased their learning and knowledge gained throughout the project - a very lively event at Stranmillis theatre in November 2013!

Entwined Histories - Part 2, The Shipyard

The second in our series of commemoration projects followed the work done around the Ulster Covenant, focusing on the Shipyard during this significant 1912 period.  This was a historic time for the Shipyard with the launch of the Titanic and the effect of the signing of the Ulster Covenant on community relations within this working environment - a working environment that was so influential in Belfast at the time.

50 young people aged 14/15 participated, representing a cross section of schools with Belfast/Greater Belfast, engaging in drama and other active and experiential activities in order to learn about the Shipyard from the personal stories of the workers,  through to the political and social background in Belfast at the time. We were delighted to welcome Dan Gordon (The Boatyard) on board to share with the young people his knowledge of the Shipyard and expertise in drama facilitation techniques.

The final workshop will drew all the strands together, facilitating the young people to make sense of all the've seen and heard and prepare them for production of a final project.  The young people were free to pick any medium they chose and the projects (including a fully costumed shipyard rap and a series of short films) were presented by the young people at a final showcase day hosted by Titanic Belfast.


Entwined Histories – Part 1, The Ulster Covenant

Co-operation Ireland has developed a series of commemoration projects linked to the upcoming decade of historical anniversaries. The first in the series examined the Ulster Covenant. The young participants learnt about the signing of the Ulster Covenant, preceding and subsequent events; the general political, economic & social context of 1912; and basic film-making skills (with our partner Cinemagic).

Six groups of 15 young people aged between 14-17 years, reperesentative of a cross section of young people, then produced a short film through which they stated their perspective and feelings on an important historical event. 

The climax of the project was a red carpet showcase event hosted by City Hall, Belfast, on the centenary anniversary of the signing of the Covenant.  The films were premiered and the young people were applauded by a variety of guests including Brabara Jones of DFA and the Minister for Education, John O'Dowd.  To the delight of the young people, certifictes were presented by young actor John Bell.


Louth projects

Co-operation Ireland has recently two education projects specifically for pupils in County Louth and the surrounding area – Schools Connecting Cultures and Spiral for Schools.

Both projects address the priority identified by the County Louth Peace and Reconciliation Partnership of consolidating peace building among young people.

(i) Schools Connecting Cultures - Cross-Border Intergenerational Project for Primary Schools

The project works directly with 6 primary schools (five from County Louth and one from Northern Ireland) delivering a programme of activities, workshops and networking opportunities which aim to build awareness of sectarianism and racism among the participants and encourage them to challenge such issues effectively with their peers and in the wider community.

(ii) ‘Spiral For Schools’ - Cross-Border Intergenerational Project for Secondary Schools

The project is primarily for schools based in County Louth but it also has a cross-border element and includes a secondary school from Northern Ireland. Project activities will mainly centre around the urban areas of Drogheda and Dundalk and the more rural Cooley peninsula area. This ensures the inclusion of ethnic minority and minority faith communities, as well as those who have been directly affected by the conflict (victims) and those who have been displaced as a result of it.

Eight schools are involved, seven from County Louth and one in the Newry and Mourne district of Northern Ireland as well as a number older people from both sides of the border to participate in the storytelling and mentoring experience of the project.

All Island School Choir Competition

TheAll Island School Choir Competition is organised annually in October and November by Co-operation Ireland and RTE .  The competition brings young people together throughout the Island and celebrates the wonderful tradition of choral music in second level schools across the Island.

The competition is open to all Second Level schools and choirs must have between 20 and 40 voices  Application forms are sent to all schools and are also available to download in the Choir section of the website

Co-operation Ireland Student Journalism Conference

The aim of Co-operation Ireland’s annual journalism conference is to encourage student journalists to examine how the media can contribute to a greater understanding of the peoples’ cultures and traditions, both at a national and international level. Each year the conference is addressed by leading journalists and industry experts. The conference is specifically for journalism students from universities and colleges in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The conference is an opportunity to examine topical stories and network with their peer group. It is sponsored by the News Letter, the Irish News and The Irish Times.