Change Agents 10/1/20: Reducing sectarian bias among youth in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Producer/Host: Steve Wessler

Reducing sectarian bias among youth in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland

John Harkin: He is a long time teacher and assistant principle for high school students at Oakgrove Integrated College in Derry-Londonderry.
BIO for John Harken
John Harkin became a teacher in 1996, starting in West Yorkshire, England, before moving to Oakgrove Integrated College in 2001, where he became Vice Principal in 2006. Oakgrove is Derry-Londonderry’s only integrated college. Passionate about the all-inclusive nature of integrated education, John believes the concept needs to be more widely embraced in order to advance the vision of reconciliation outlined in the Good Friday Agreement. John has responsibility for promoting the integrated ethos within the school, and supporting community links with other schools and organisations, specifically those focused on promoting education for reconciliation, peace and conflict studies, active citizenship and international projects to promote understanding. John values the role of global learning in understanding the lessons to be learned and shared between schools in different cultures and countries. At Oakgrove, John teaches English and co-ordinates the Hands For A Bridge project, which links with Roosevelt High School’s programme which encourages local and international dialogue and promotes leadership for change. John has been active in a number of human rights groups and as a student volunteered in refugee camps in former Yugoslavia, and more recently has taken part in two peace visits to Israel and Palestine.

Robin Young: He was a police officer in Derry-Londonderry for many years. As a sergeant he directed a community policing team. He now is retired and continues to reduce sectarian tensions between Catholic and Protestant youth.
BIO for Robin Young
Robin Young was brought up in the Protestant community, the sectarianism he saw caused him to doubt the attitudes that seemed to go with some of the politics. He was passionately interested in reducing conflict as a young man but focused on the actual study of tactics and strategy. “While my peers read fictional comic books, I was engrossed in factual histories of the battle for Stalingrad and the autobiographies of Generals like Heinz Guderian.”
After a short service with the military, Robin joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1986. His experiences of victim recovery at the Coshquin human bomb incident of 1990 and the Omagh explosion of 1998 affected him deeply and he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The support obtained from so many people, both friends and former enemies, during his recovery inspired him to get involved with peace and reconciliation work in order to make a positive impact on peace at home and abroad. Having retired from the police in 2017, Robin has now graduated with a degree in Community Development and is working as a freelance consultant promoting reconciliation, conflict resolution and community understanding at home in Northern Ireland, across Europe and globally. He says he now is part of the change he wants to see in the world.

Recorded via Zoom

About the host:
Steve Wessler will soon will be starting his 28th year of working on human right issues. He founded the Civil Rights Unit in the Maine Attorney’s Office in 1992 and led the Unit for 7 years. In 1999 he left the formal practice of law and founded the Center for the Prevention of Hate. The Center worked in Maine and across the USA. He and his colleagues worked to reduce bias and harassment in schools, in communities, in health care organization through workshops and conflict resolution. The Center closed in 2011 and Steve began a consulting on human rights issues. For the next 5 years much of his work was in Europe, developing and implementing training curricular for police, working in communities to reduce the risk of hate crimes, conflict resolution between police and youth. He has worked in over 20 countries. In late 2016 he began to work more in Maine, with a focus on reducing anti-immigrant bias. He continues to work in schools to reduce bias and harassment. Wessler teaches courses on human rights issues at the College of the Atlantic, the University of Maine at Augusta and at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in northern Virginia.